Getting Textures Down on Paper

Like all of the other senses, touch can be an important part of telling a story. Yet for some writers, describing the way an object feels is a difficult obstacle to overcome. There are those typical words that they will fall back on, such as silky, rough or smooth, but if you want to invoke the feelings of your reader you are going to have to rely on more than just standard descriptive words.

Patterns and textures are key characteristics of almost every object you touch, and of any object that plays a small role in your storytelling. When a character takes hold of a gun for example, what does it feel like? Is the trigger hot and bumpy or is their finger on the chilly sliver of steel that stands between life and death for the intended victim? You want the reader to relate immediately to whatever is in your characters hand, not just by how it looks or even smells, but how it feels.


In most cases you can bring the reader there easily, since it is likely that they have at least seen the trigger of a gun before and can visualize what you mean. Yet some writers, especially in the science fiction niche, are often trying to describe an object that is a complete result of their imagination. They have to really stretch their descriptive powers to help the reader understand the tepid, mucous-like grasp of the alien as they shake hands with a human for the first time.

The same happens when you are trying to describe lesser known objects in a story. The heroine used the bristly konjac sponge to clear the sweat off of her upper lip, its squishy feel in her hands reminding her of walking on wet leaves in the forest, triggering thoughts of the organic lip balm she applied earlier. You may find that you are having to spend more words in describing the texture of objects like a konjac sponge, which do really exist, in order to make the reader feel what your character is feeling.

Despite touch being one of our main senses, both established and new writers struggle with getting the descriptions down right, if they even bother at all. Some stick with the one-dimensional story, relying solely on how things look. This type of storytelling grows boring very fast, and does not stimulate the reader in the same way that describing using all of the senses does.

As you start your stories think about each item, no matter how insignificant, that your subject touches and how it feels on the fingertips. Close your eyes to envision this, and the words will come that can help you to describe it in a compelling way.


Character Development – The Best Beards in Literary History

Developing a character that is either loved or hated takes special talent, not only to get the nuances of their personality down on paper, but also to pay tribute to their physical attributes. Authors often will use eccentric or unique physical characteristics to help in defining the personality. Beards are one of the methods employed, and have been done brilliantly when capturing the essence of these characters:

  • Macbeth’s Three Witches: Shakespeare had a way of using sexuality, or a lack of it, to help bring a characters role forward. The Three Witches in Macbeth were assumed female for their name, but with Banquo’s declaration “ You should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret, that you are so” leaves the audience pondering if the weird sisters are not really brothers in witch drag.
  • Gandalf: The virtuous wizard of “The Hobbit” has a beard which hangs well below his waist, a sign of not only his age but of his massive wisdom. After returning from the dead in “The Lord of the Rings” his beard has turned silver, letting us know that he has gained even more power while on the other side.
  • Riah and Fagin: Riah of Charles Dicken’s “Oliver Twist” wore a beard that was in need of some good beard balm and maybe a few beard trimming tips. For this, Dickens was accused of being anti-semetic. For “Our Mutual Friend” he tried to lose that reputation with a noble man of Jewish faith who wore a neat beard symbolizing his great wisdom.
  • Bluebeard: The title character’s beard was a way to highlight both is aristocracy and horridness. A trait that was uncovered time and time again throughout the fairytale, until it reached its peak at the bitter end.
  • bluebeard_largeCaptain Blifil: Considering the amount of beard balm sold today, it’s hard to imagine a time when wearing a beard meant you were uncivilized. That helped to define the rogue Captain Blifil in the 18 century “Tom Jones” by Henry Feilding.
  • Bertrand Welch: the initial description of Professor Welch’s son in “Lucky Jim” says it all; “wearing a lemon-yellow sports-coat, all three buttons of which were fastened, and displaying a large beard which came down further on one side than the other”. In one brief description, Kingsley Amis makes the reader despise the obnoxious Bertrand.

Facial hair, hair styles, clothing choices and even jewelry can drive a description that drives the character. Practice the art by mentally describing the beards you see on the street, and you’ll soon find it easy to draw a reader into the mind of your characters.

The Popularity of the “Run A Way” Theme in Modern Literature

Modern literature is full of stories about boys and girls of all ages who abandon home in exchange for a life of fun, glory and adventure. It makes sense, as there can be no real adventure when a mom or dad is popping their head around the corner to see what type of mischief is being cooked up.

Not all runaways have that status by choice. Some are orphans, forced into adult situations too early, while others have been sent away by parents who are just too busy to take care of their adventure seeking needs.

Still, kids in literature seem to love ducking down rabbit holes or going beyond the confines of a wardrobe in order to explore a world without parents. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are two of literatures most loved characters, yet they were openly rebellious boys who chose a life of thrill and danger over a mundane life full of school, friends, and GASP! authority figures.

An interesting literature discovery that we recently made was a Finnish version of the good boy gone bad theme. Published in 1870, “Seven Brothers” is the only novel to ever have been published by Aleksis Kivi, who is considered the national author of Finland. Not well received at first, it is now considered to be one of the best Finnish novels ever written.

The Premise of Seven Brothers

The novel begins with seven brothers (two sets of twins) who are basically the misfits of the town they live in. With no hopes of finding wives without first learning how to read, the seven decide to try their luck in a distant town. The novel covers ten years of their struggles in the wilderness, culminating in them learning how to read on their own and returning to their home town to take wives and begin to lead respectable lives.

One of the more enduring scenes in the book, and an insight into Finnish culture even today, is the brothers use of a makeshift sauna to help recover from wounds of the body and mind. The ensuing dialogue along with the references to throwing water on a hot stove to create steam are engaging, and show how the brothers struggled between morality and wanting to lead a life of freedom.


Wouldn’t it be nice if our own portable saunas (or sauna blankets, which are more like the makeshift one’s they would use) could provide the same types of thoughts into our young people today? The combination of heat, companionship and soul cleansing from a portable infrared sauna may just be the ticket towards a more peaceful future.

Like all stories of kids gone rogue, “Seven Brothers” does not miss any marks when it comes to teaching young kids to learn to appreciate what they have rather than always searching for something better. The language may seem strange at first, but invest in this book and you won’t be disappointed.

Top 5 Greatest Fictional Characters of All Time

When you set out to write a short story, your main character is your key element. They must be memorable, and someone to think about even when the book or story is finished. If you are having a hard time with developing your story’s character, take hints from these, and consider the traits that were attributed to them that have made them so endearing for such a long time.

Scout Finch – You can go ahead and throw in Atticus as well here and Boo Radley, and even Dill if you want. The evolution of all the characters in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird makes for an incredible read. Scout’s curiosity, and its repercussions, Atticus’ steadfast stance to always do the right thing, Boo’s fascination with the family, and even Dill and his over active imagination all weaved together masterfully to create a cast of characters that one will never forget.

Scarlett O’Hara – That drive and determination of Gone With the Wind’s heroine makes you love her, even when she is at her most hateful. Scarlett is the epitome of making what should be an unlikeable character into someone we root for. Even when sparring with the morally chaste Melanie, you are hoping for Scarlett’s good sense to win.

Robin Hood – This is the perfect example of building a character by using a theme that most people want to relate to. Robin Hood, the thief who gives to the poor, has his character built by his actions. With recurve bow in hand, he is the ideal good guy, and one character everyone wishes to be. You can come close, only if you pick up your own recurve bow and arrows and learn how to use them for the good of mankind.

Peter Pan – Peter Pan has been so endearing for generations because let’s face it, getting older is no picnic. At some point we have all wished to be in Neverland, where the tree house is already paid for and the kids don’t have any desire to go to college anyway.


James Bond – Super sophisticated and uber cool, Bond is everyone’s hero. First off, he always gets the girl, and then there is that incredible car and the lot of spy tricks he has hiding up his sleeve. Having a main character drive that many books is testament to how well he has been developed over the years, and the consistent traits that are evident in every story he is a part of.

Take notes from this list of characters who have persevered generations and are still thought of and loved. They all not only have admirable traits, they have obvious flaws which is what makes them so endearing to read about.

How to Choose the Right Setting to Tell Your Story

In great literature, the setting should be a character in the story. There should be a distinct personality and traits that help to move your plot along. There may be other settings where parts of your story are unfolding, but you should have a focus setting that is instantly identifiable to the reader.

There are some stories where the setting is not as important, and are barely a blurb in your story. Yet there are others where the author is able to bring you to the characters side by a detailed description of where they are. The Harry Potters series is a good example of this. Anyone who read those books before the first movie was released already had a clear vision of what Hogwarts looked like.

The Benefits of Creating a Good Setting

Horror stories are the perfect example of when a story setting is a key element to the drama that is unfolding. The early work of horror story genius Stephen King epitomizes this point. 30 years after having read his work, I can still envision tunnels full of dead bodies, the underground fortress of a gigantic spider, and a writer’s prison-bed.

It is easy to use your imagination to create a sinister atmosphere, just by adding the right descriptive words. A campsite in the midst of weeping willows, whose extended branches scratch at the roof of your family tent. Coyotes howling in the distance, as you crawl into a cold sleeping bag and try to sleep. The flame of your Coleman burner going out with the gust of wind.

Don’t you just feel something horrific is about to happen?

If you go down to the woods today … you’d better be feeling braveSettings can be an extension of a character’s personality, or they can be the antithesis in order to highlight their extremes. It is more challenging, yet a better read, if your dark and gloomy heroine is forced to live in a bright and cheerful cottage. This helps to highlight their internal struggles against the world that surrounds them.

Using a Real Setting to tell a Story

Settings are not just resigned to small places. You can use an entire city to help propel a story forward. When using this technique, it is important that you are accurate in your details. Readers who have visited the same places will be distracted from the story if there in inconsistencies with your setting.

The Benefit of a Contrived Setting

If you do decide to go the J.K. Rowling route, your writing job will be much simpler. With few exception, the majority of her Harry Potter stories took place in completely fictional places of her own imagination. This allows the reader to recreate how it looks in their mind, and become that much more invested in your story.

You are going to be giving as much thought to where your story takes place, as the characters which are pushing the plot. Take that into consideration to create a setting in your story that is memorable and complementary to the tale you are telling.

Developing a Character

With a short story, developing a character is one of the most crucial aspects. You don’t have a lot of time to go into a person’s back story, or for the reader to get to know them, so you need to get them on their side as quickly as you can. There are several ways that you can go about developing character, and we recommend incorporating all of them to some degree. Below are some of the ways that you can develop the characters in any short story.

Appearance – First and foremost, give the reader something to picture when they think of your character. How old are they? What color is their hair? How do they dress? Simple things like this will allow your reader to form an image in their mind while they are reading. Don’t go into too much detail however, as you want to leave something up to the imagination. Just enough description so that they can distinguish the different characters from one another in their own mind’s eye.

Background – How a person got to where they are says a lot about them. We are a result of all of the decisions we have made in our life, and each one of them is important. You don’t have time to list everything that has happened to your character throughout their life, so just pick out an important few. Knowing what a character has gone through will help your readers to relate and understand why they make the decisions that they do while they are reading the story.

Relationships – How does your character interact with others? Are they nice? Are they racist? How they treat other people says a lot about them, and can help your reader to get a better idea as to what your character is like. Don’t keep your character in solitary confinement the whole time, as letting them talk with others is a great way to show more about them. (And if your story is about someone in solitary confinement, maybe your character can think back to a time when they did interact with other people. These tips can be bent to suit your needs!)

Inner Monologue – Lastly, how does your character think? How are they perceiving the situation they are in? Do their actions match their thoughts? The best way to understand someone is to get inside their head, and you can do that for your reader. Let us hear what they are thinking about and we will have a better idea as to who they are as a person.

Building a character can be tough, but if you use the tips mentioned above in different ways, you should end up with a character that is believable. If you can do that, then your readers will feel a connection with that character, no matter who they are or what they are doing.

For more information, here is a short Youtube video with some helpful advice:

Short Story Writing Tips

"Creative" by Janpha Thadphoothon.Original uploader was Janpha at en.wikibooks - Transferred from en.wikibooks; transferred to Commons by User:Adrignola using CommonsHelper.(Original text : Janpha's Photo Collection). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Creative” by Janpha Thadphoothon.Original uploader was Janpha at en.wikibooks – Transferred from en.wikibooks; transferred to Commons by User:Adrignola using CommonsHelper.(Original text : Janpha’s Photo Collection). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Are you feeling stuck with your short story? Not sure how to go about writing it? Don’t worry, we have you covered. While we can’t write the story for you – what fun would that be? – we can at least offer you some short story writing tips that will help you out.

1. What’s The Point? – First, think about why you are writing this story. For most short stories, there is a message or theme to go along with them. With longer novels you can delve into character development and exciting plot lines, but with a short story you have a limited amount of time. Think about who is going to be reading this story, and what you want them to get out of it. It doesn’t have to be some grand, insightful idea, as something simple will do. Just don’t waste the readers time with something pointless.

2. Protagonist – Who is the main character of this story? What are they like? You won’t have a lot of time to go over their history, so you need to make it clear who this person is in as few a words as you can. Also, every good short story as a character that the reader can relate to, or root for. Try not to make all of you characters jerks that no one will like.

3. Desire – Just like in real life, each person in your book should want something. It doesn’t have to be something big, like conquering the world, they just need to have some desire. Even if it just for a nap, desire in characters makes them easier to relate to.

4. Use Your Words Wisely – As we have said already, with a short story your words are limited. In longer books you can take your time to describe a scene, but you don’t have that luxury with a short story. With each sentence you should either be revealing something about the character or moving the action along. There is no time to waste.

5. Start at the End – If you want a story to cover the span of a couple of years, go with a novel. Short stories are meant to take place over at most a couple of days. You want to start your story as close to the end of it as possible.

6. Have One Reader In Mind – When you are writing your story, think of one person and one person only. Who is the person in your life that will be reading this story first? Your husband? Wife? Mother? Brother? Best friend? Whoever it is, keep them in mind while you write and try to please them. If you try to please everyone at once, you won’t get anywhere.

Crafting a short story can take a lot of time, even though they are not as long as books. There is a lot that goes into cramming a story into such a short period. Hopefully with the tips above you will be able to get started on your short story, and turn it into something that you love. Good luck!

Scent-sational Scents and Carrying Them Over into a Story

One of the biggest challenges for a writer when trying to develop a story is how to invoke the sense of smell. We strive for readers to see the events as they unfold, and often times how a scene smells is especially relevant to the story line. The trouble is finding the right words that are not vague, but rather getting specific about the scent.

We underestimate the power of scent in our daily lives, until suddenly touched by it. For example, the smell of Old Spice will conjure images of my father immediately, while the earthy smell of potatoes always makes me think of Thanksgiving dinner.  Use that type of imagery to enhance your storytelling. For example, if you wanted to describe a man wearing a certain cologne, smell it and make note of the first words that come to your mind. These are the words that will invoke the feelings you are trying to inspire in the reader.

whiteAdjectives are critical in creating smell with words, and should be used extensively. Say you are recreating a scene where your heroine is shopping for essential oils. She will pick up a floral lavender oil, one that is lemon fresh and a third that is musty oregano. As the reader you are able to sense the calming effect these essential oils and their scent has when she uses them in her scented oil diffuser lamp. Wisps of gray smoke gently fill the room with the wild floral scent of lavender.

You can also use nouns if the smell you want to describe is similar to something else, such as rain or strawberries. This technique can easily help to set a scene using the reader’s sense of smell. There are a hundred smells that pass you by daily, that immediately invoke feelings of something else. Use those feelings to transform your story into a magical journey that places the reader right in the middle of it.

Verbs are used to describe how a scent makes it to your nose. They can hint of something sweet, permeate a smoky room, or conjure the past. Verbs will push the story forward using the scent.

Think about what feeling the scent invokes and try to use that feeling to make it clear. Smells can be soothing, natural, and even startling. All of these descriptive words will bring substance to your story telling in the form of clean, crisp scents.

In order for a story to be compelling you need to hit upon all of the senses. Sight and sound are easy, but the sense of smell can be difficult to master. Yet once you do, your stories will benefit from it.