Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bring Your Story to Life

How can you make your story come to life in your readers' minds?

When you're writing a novel or short story, always keep in mind your five senses: smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch.  Your character, unless blind or deaf, has these senses and how you use them makes a huge difference in whether you have a bland story or one that makes your readers feel like they are with the characters in another city or world.  Visualization is key.  You want color and texture.

For me, the story plays out in my head as if I am watching a movie.  I see everything.  I feel like I am in the background listening to their conversations.  I eavesdrop and quickly write down what is going on.  Later, when I am revising, the places come alive in my mind again.  Only now that I have down the initial story can I take my time to flesh it out more.

Devils' Den is my novel about a teenage boy (Justin McKnight) who gets lost in a haunted cave (Devils' Den) and finds himself in another realm.  It's a world of elves, dwarves, fairies, and an evil wizard that wants to take over the Underworld.  Here's an excerpt:

   ---The air inside Devils’ Den was damp and cool.  The wet cave walls glistened.  Water dripped into small blackish pools along the edge of the pathway.
     Justin’s light dimmed, brightened, dimmed, as he walked deeper into the cave.  He tapped the back of the light several times.  He assumed the light suffered more from a bad connection than dying batteries because the batteries were new.  The flashlight flickered but his burning curiosity lured him deeper into the cave.
      He no longer looked for the bullfrog.  The amphibian should have become too sluggish to travel this deep into the cave.  It had probably squeezed into a hole that he had stepped over without noticing.  On his way out, he’d look among the wet rocks and crevices for it.
     The flashlight dimmed.  Justin slapped the end harder than before.  The light’s intensity increased several seconds before fading again.  He decided to turn back and get the larger flashlight.  He didn’t understand why his grandfather had dramatically exaggerated about the cave.  Nothing he’d seen so far had proven to be dangerous.  The snake at the pond had scared him worse than the cave.
     The path’s gradient grew steeper with each step he took, but he had not come down a descending slope.  The path had been level without any deviation and now it was strangely different.  The wall formations didn’t look familiar, either.  He wished he had marked the walls with a piece of limestone to guide him back to the entranceway.  The glow of the flashlight didn’t reveal any scuffed footprints left by his tennis shoes.
     A cold, howling breeze flowed from the cave depths.  It brushed past, chilling him.  His short sleeve shirt wasn’t enough to keep him warm.
     Justin wondered how deep into the cave he had walked.  No outside light filtered in.  He was certain he hadn’t traveled more than twenty yards.  Turning off the flashlight, he stood in pitch-blackness.  Now the darkness frightened him.  Without the assurance of a quick exit from the cave, he feared he was lost.  He turned the light back on and hurried up the path.
     Tears of desperation heated his eyes when he came to a crossroad of intersecting paths he hadn’t passed earlier.  He was lost.  He didn’t know which path to take.  If he chose the wrong direction, he’d wander in complete darkness after the flashlight eventually stopped working.
     The wind swirled and moaned.  Drifting in the air was the soft whispering, anguished cries of tortured souls.  Their pain-filled chorus was faint and in languages unfamiliar to him.
Justin shone the flashlight down each tunnel.  Shadows slinked deeper out of the light’s reach.  He wanted to believe the flickering light played tricks with the darkness, but he remembered the drawing, the solemn threat, and that the tree he had drawn towered outside the cave.  He no longer felt alone.  Something else lurked inside the dark tunnels.
     The frigid air hung still, silent.  Fog escaped his mouth as he contemplated which direction to take.  He chose the path straight ahead and hoped he found the entrance before darkness swallowed him.
     The path descended, narrowed, and turned sharp to the right.  The tight crevice required him to squeeze and contort his body.  Midway through the turn, he was wedged and unable to move.  He sucked in a deep breath and bent slightly back, freeing himself.---

There's a lot of description based on Justin's five senses, which adds texture and enlivens the cave's environment and Justin's emotions.

Using the five senses is a great way to pull a reader into your story.  Like I mentioned before, this usually doesn't occur during the first draft, but later, sometimes during my tenth or hundredth time through a manuscript.

I hope this is a tip that will help you while writing your novel.


Leonard D. Hilley II

Devils' Den                 Currently $0.99 on Amazon Kindle

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