Feb 13

5 Ways to Travel for Inspiration

If you’re like me, you love to travel…but probably don’t get to as often as you’d like.  Maybe it’s the time, maybe it’s the money…or maybe it’s both. There’s that day job that you actually have to go to (you know, to pay the bills).  Or there are the kids or the pets (or both) that need to be taken care of.  Or, taxes (need I say more?).  Yeah, it’s that time of year again.

Still, travel is one of the greatest ways to get inspiration for your writing.  Some writers crave travel for the peace and quiet and unfamiliarity of environment that it provides — all of which helps them to buckle down and get some quality verbiage on paper.  Some writers travel to get inspiration for world-building.  Fantasy writers love to make up new and rich worlds, but I firmly believe that the more you’ve seen of our world, the easier it will be to create other worlds.  Some writers travel for the experience of meeting new people and new world views.  What better way to get inspiration for a great character than by studying the motley assortment of people you meet on a tour bus?

Me, I love to travel for all those reasons. Last year I was fortunate enough to take an 8-day trip to Iceland, which was frankly the awesomest experience of my life. I’d been mulling over a particular setting for the next Madness Method book, an island nation called Istia, and when I stepped off the plane in Keflavik, the first thing I thought was, “Oh, wow. This is Istia.” Everything I experienced in Iceland I tucked away for future reference, from the biting, numbing cold to the sound of the wind howling around the cabin, from the black beaches set against the slate grey sky, to the quiet strength and spirit of the Icelanders I met.


A nice color picture from Iceland.

I’d go back in a heartbeat if I could.  But of course, there’s the day job, and the pets, and the taxes.  So, if you’re not at the stage yet where you’ve been able to quit your day job and support yourself quite comfortably on your writing, how can you manage to travel for inspiration?  Well, here are 5 tips to make it possible.

1. Travel local, and keep it short.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but whenever I used to think of travel, I thought about, well, Iceland. New Zealand. China. You know, exotic. But the truth is, you can get great inspiration from short trips, too. Even better, short trips don’t have to cost a fortune. Find out what’s in your region that you can travel to in a quick day or weekend trip, and go for it! Focus your interest on something related to your writing. Maybe your setting is an early American town. There are lots of heritage towns and villages all across the country — see if there’s one in your area. Maybe you have a favorite woodland setting in your story. Find a local state or national park and take a hiking trip, and really soak in the scenery (and take some photographs for future reference!).

2. Look for fare sales and package deals.

Maybe you want to spread your wings and get out of your native habitat a bit. You can still travel to some pretty exotic places on a budget if you plan wisely. If you happen to be a student or a teacher, register with Student Universe. Especially if you can select flexible travel dates, you can get incredible rates. Other sites offer fare comparisons, too, so don’t settle for the first price you find.  If you’re really flexible, take a look at the fare rates for several different months.  Sometimes a flight that would cost you $2000 in July will only cost $800 in November. If you can travel off-season, you can really experience some remarkable things and at a great price.

3. Be flexible in your destination.

Maybe you really want to go to London but it’s too expensive. Look into other British destinations that might give you the same kind of experience on a cheaper budget – and plan to take a day trip to London to see the sights. Maybe your story takes place on a Caribbean island, but the resorts on your island of choice are too expensive. Consider going to a less traveled or less costly destination, like St. Lucia or the Dominican Republic.

4. Find a buddy to travel with.

(Even better if that buddy is also a writer!) By traveling with one or two companions, you can split hotel costs, food costs, and sometimes get deals on excursions. Also, if you travel alone, especially to remote destinations, you might not be able to take advantage of certain activities. In Iceland, some tour options were only available if you had more than one person in your party, due to the possibility that no one else would register. They would happily take two people on an excursion, but it wouldn’t make sense for them to only take one.


Glacier hiking in Iceland

5. Push your personal boundaries.

This isn’t a tip for how to travel affordably so much as a tip for writers to maximize the benefits of travel. Everything we do and experience as writers can work its way into our writing. Tolkien called it the “leaf mold of the mind.” On one trip I camped out in an abandoned rock quarry somewhere in the French countryside. It was as uncomfortable as you can imagine, but it was…fantastic. I will never, ever make the mistake of having my merry band of adventurers happily sleeping on hard ground as they go on their quest. Ever. I will give them stones in their backs and neck aches and muscle-cramping chills and clammy blankets. And it will be glorious. So, find something to do in your destination of choice that might someday make it into your writing, and throw caution to the wind and try it out! Even if that’s just eating a plate of snails. Be brave! Everything you live and see and do will only make you a better writer, so live gloriously.

Have you had any great travel experiences that have really inspired your writing? Tell me about them in the comments below! One of the best things about travel is hearing fellow travelers’ tales.

Jan 30

Using Pinterest for Setting Research

One of the coolest things about thriller writer J.F. Penn’s website is the photos section. She travels a lot as part of the research she does for her novels — it’s a writer’s dream! J. Leigh is going to talk about her trip to Iceland last year and how it has played a huge role in her setting creation for her new Madness Method series in another post. But for those of us who can’t travel to exotic locations at all (or as often as we would wish), we have to turn to other means of researching settings. That’s where I’ve found Pinterest to be a huge help.

Creating Boards

If you head over to my Pinterest boards, you can see that I’ve started several different writing-related boards. (Some are just fun for me personally). I have a board dedicated to the Silesia Trilogy, one for my historical novel This Other Eden, and one for my newest project, a dystopic novel called Final Origin. I also have a generic settings board as well as a costumes/clothing board, and I have a board for book covers that I love. I also have a board for interesting articles. Each of these serves a distinct purpose for my research.


So, what boards should you create?

It depends on your project, and it depends on where you feel you need inspiration. If you’re writing a fantasy novel, you may want to riff off medieval culture. Or, like J. Leigh, you may want to dig into a different time period — you can see her amazing collection of period photos and other inspirational images for The Madness Method on her writing-related Pinterest board. If you’re writing sci-fi, you need something to serve as inspiration for your worlds. As you engage in world-building, you need to consider architecture, costumes, landscapes, food, drink, entertainment, religion, learning, art and music. The more realistic you can make these details — the more believable you can make these details — the more successful your story will be.


This isn’t to say that you should overburden your story with detail. But those you do include need to be vivid and make the story come alive in the mind of the reader.

Conducting Research

Searching for images on Pinterest is a lot of fun — and you have to be careful about this! It really can be addictive, and you can find yourself spending far more time browsing around than conducting actual research. Like any social media outlet, it requires discipline! But if you know what you want to look for, it’s a great tool. I recommend keeping a running list of images you’d like to find, and when you have your research time, you can be deliberate and orderly about your work.

The neat thing about Pinterest is that it isn’t just for images. You can search for images on Foter or iStockPhoto or some photo sharing site. What’s terrific about Pinterest for research is that those images are linked to web content — web pages, articles, additional pictures, etc. Essentially, it’s visual bookmarking, and it is incredibly helpful and can save you a lot of time.

Other Benefits of Pinterest

One of the best things about Pinterest is that even as you use it as a tool to help you write more engaging stories, you can also share it with your readers. They can get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your project, and it’s yet another way for you to connect to your audience and help your readers live your stories. Essentially, it’s marketing and research all in one — and who doesn’t love it when time spent on an activity can do double-duty?


So, if you haven’t started a Pinterest board for yourself yet, you might consider it! If you do have a Pinterest board for your writing and research, please share the link in the comments! We’d love to check it out!

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Jan 10

Inspiration Isn’t Action

I love the New Year. It’s invigorating and inspiring to be starting over, getting a fresh take on things, and recommitting to goals and dreams that maybe didn’t quite see their fruition last year. I’m big on office supplies, so one of my favorite ways to kick off the new year is with a new planner, new pens, and some new notebooks. Maybe some highlighters too. And some cool note tabs. And…. Well, you get the picture.

But inspiration isn’t action, is it?

It’s the same with writing. Coming off of a book release (The Artifex came out last month!), there’s always a bit of a lull before the start of a new project, but there’s a lot of inspiration. We need ways to capture all of those great ideas and organize them. I’ve discovered the power of Pinterest for capturing some of that inspiration, by the way — you can check out the idea boards for my two new projects, as well as inspiration for settings, costumes, and the writing life, here. Some of this stuff is incredibly cool…and it fuels your imagination like crazy!


But inspiration isn’t action. It’s a necessary part of writing, but at a certain point, it’s time to get the keys working again and turn that inspiration into a working story. All this month, we’ll be doing a series on creating vivid settings for your books — from using Pinterest for research and inspiration to writing about food…and everything in between!

And we’ll have a  SisterMuses podcast on settings this month too! We are very excited to be launching the SisterMuses podcasts, so we hope you’ll join us for that!

Next week, we’ll jump right in on gathering inspiration using Pinterest and travel!

Happy writing!

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Dec 23

Welcome to the New SisterMuses!

Well, here we are! We’re finally getting our new home on the web all set up, and we couldn’t be more excited! But like any move, it takes time to work out all the little things, so please be patient with us as we add more content! We do have some terrific updates to share, and there will be more to come soon, I promise!

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1. SisterMuses is now its very own imprint!

It’s still hard for us to believe, but we are our very own micro micropress now! This has all kinds of fun and exciting developments attached to it…more on all of that in future posts!

2. Two new books launched!

J. Leigh just released The Madness Project: Book I in the Madness Method, and S.K. released The Artifex: Book III in the Silesia Trilogy. If you haven’t picked up your copy of these latest offerings, it’s a great time to do so! The links will take you to the Kindle versions, but if you have a different e-reader, you can also find the books on Smashwords for all other platforms! (They are available in paperback on Amazon as well!)

The Artifex is the very first book to be published under the new SisterMuses imprint! Look for all our titles to be re-released in coming months under the SisterMuses label!

3. New Ways to Connect!

As part of our redesign and launch, we’ll be publishing a quarterly newsletter! This will have exclusive behind-the-scenes information for our readers, as well as offer unique opportunities to be part of our Advance Review team! If you like free books and like to review books, sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be notified when our new releasees are ready for review.

Please update your bookmarks, and stay tuned for more exciting content and updates!

Merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year!!!


May 30

Writing Creative Nonfiction

In my prior life as a university English professor, all I did was nonfiction writing. I taught it. I wrote it. I lived it. And I discovered something in the process: there is a strong tendency to want to divorce creativity from nonfiction writing. When you take a “creative writing” class in school, no one teaches you about crafting an essay or a research paper. You learn to write poetry and fiction. You learn about descriptive writing and crafting compelling characters. Unfortunately, I’ve never yet come across a creative writing class that focuses on the elegance of the written medium: crafting compelling sentence constructions, learning to manipulate the music of the language to delight your reader…even if you’re writing about astrophysics or remodeling your bathroom. I’m a huge believer in the power and beauty of language. And learning to appreciate and use this tool is truly “creative writing”.

The Beauty of Order


When we’re organizing our table of contents, we don’t often stop to consider that we’re creating something beautiful. But just as there is beauty in the structure of a snowflake and elegance in the symmetry of a flower’s petals, there is beauty and elegance in the logical ordering of a topic. Headings, subheadings, topics, subtopics, indices, appendices…all of these contribute to the order of a work. For nonfiction, the topic determines the ordering techniques. A work of literary criticism won’t have the same structure as a DIY handbook of home repairs, but both will have structure. As you determine how best to organize your work, do it with intention. Is a topical grouping approach best for your topic, or does it require a more architectural approach, with each chapter building on the last? Your book’s structure is integral to the work as a whole, much like the skeleton is integral to the human body. A badly structured book is not likely to be successful, because, ultimately, it won’t be understandable. So consider carefully how to lay out your project, and don’t be afraid to rearrange things in the editing phase if the structure doesn’t flow.

Order operates on both a macro level — the table of contents — and a micro level — the ordering of words and sentences and paragraphs. Both are critically important to the success of your project, and both are opportunities for you to be “creative” in your use of your tool (language).

The Elegance of Prose

Yes, fiction is also prose. And it’s helpful to remember that! Just because you are writing about the works of Mary Shelley or the physics of motion doesn’t mean that you have to avoid figurative or descriptive language. But it does mean that your language needs to suit your topic. Elegance and beauty in language can come in many different forms. Language doesn’t have to be ornate and flowery and full of metaphors and descriptors to be lovely. There is beauty in simplicity and clarity too.

Know your topic, and know your audience’s expectations. If you’re writing a serious medical text, humor probably doesn’t have a place. But a book on dieting for mass consumption might call for a dash of humor to lighten up the topic. (Did you notice the food and diet imagery in that sentence? Don’t be afraid to have fun every once in a while! It’s good to make your readers smile.) Proportion is key: too much play with your subject can become tedious, so use it judiciously.

Delighting your reader is one of the best ways to keep them returning to you and your writing. No matter what you write, you will develop a unique style that sets your treatment apart from other books on the same subject. Your style is what keeps your audience coming back. Your readers learn to identify your name not only with a certain unique approach to the subject matter, but also with a mode of expression. The way you use humor, the way you break complex ideas into digestible pieces, the way your sentences flow, the vocabulary you use…all of these contribute to your unique treatment. It’s not too much to say that your style is part of your brand, and it carries through everything you write, whether it’s on your blog or in your latest book. So pay close attention to the way you craft your prose — it will become a hallmark of your work.

Elements of Nonfiction Style

As you work on your project and consider your style and approach and presentation, pay special attention to these four areas: diction (word choice), sentence structure, syntactical order, and sentence length. Let’s work through a short example so you can see how powerful tweaks to these elements can be, and how “creative” writing can make an enormous difference in your nonfiction project.

Version 1 (rough draft)

Getting a baby to sleep through the night is a task most parents dread. Sleep training methods seem either harsh (letting a baby cry it out until she falls asleep or the timer goes off) or too time-consuming (some gentle sleep training methods take weeks, if not months, to get results). Parents may feel added pressure from grandparents or friends to “do something” about their baby’s sleep habits. Adding this to exhaustion makes for a desperate situation. 

Not bad, but not great. It’s a bit of a yawner. The audience for this piece is clearly exhausted parents who are confused about the best way to help their baby sleep. They’re a bit desperate and strung out, and they may be feeling sensitive or even defensive about the decision they need to make. So let’s try livening this up by addressing the four elements I list above.

Version 2

Whoever coined the phrase “sleeping like a baby” never had kids. Helping a baby learn to sleep on her own is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting, not least because of the dizzying array of sleep training methods out there today. Should exhausted parents set the timer for their baby and just walk away, fighting down tears as their baby wails in her crib alone? Or should they invest weeks — or even months — in a gentle method that may not provide a solution soon enough? And in our social media culture, grandma isn’t the only one sharing her opinion — everyone has something to say about the decision. It’s almost too much for the sleep deprived mind to process.

What do you think? It’s more fun and more relevant, and the flow is much better. There’s a bit of humor in there as well, because this is an emotionally charged topic for many parents, and a smile can cut through some of that frustration.

We could continue to tweak this passage, but I think you get the picture. Creativity isn’t just for fiction writers, so add facets to your work until your gem of  a project truly sparkles. Fascinating, creative, and well-organized writing will keep your readers coming back for more! 

May 06

Help us help a friend!

All right, folks. We need your help.

Some of you may already know that David Farland has been a huge inspiration and wonderful teacher for both S.K. and me.  Well, last month, his son Ben was in a terrible accident which will likely run his family into over a million dollars in medical bills (they don’t have insurance). Because of the brain trauma and all the related injuries, he has been fighting for his life and there were times when the doctors weren’t sure if he would live.  He seems to have turned the corner and is doing better every day.  But the ordeal has been so hard for his family, and it’s far from over.

So, we would like to announce that, for the month of May,

all the money we make on the sales of our books will go to Ben’s cause.

DaLR is free, but that means that basically you can download the whole Lost Road Chronicles trilogy for under $10.  This fundraiser also applies to the paperbacks.

On S.K.’s side of things, Silesia: The Outworlder is free for Kindle right now, so you can get both available volumes of the Silesia Trilogy for just $2!!  (That’s a steal, folks!) As with the Lost Road Chronicles, this fundraiser also applies to the paperback versions.

We really want to make this a huge success for our friend and mentor and his family…and we can’t do that without you, our awesome readers. So if you would, please take just a second to tweet this post and share it on FB, Pinterest, and all your social media sites!  Better yet, gift the books to someone you think might enjoy them.  And even better, do all three!  🙂

Please help us help a friend!  Dave is just an incredible teacher and writer, and we really want to give back somehow for all that he’s done for us.

Learn more about Ben Wolverton’s case here:

Find the Lost Road Chronicles on Amazon here. And find the Silesia Trilogy on Amazon here.

Thanks, y’all!!!

Peace and love,

J. Leigh and S.K.

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Mar 28

Writerly Recipes — Lemon Ginger Tea

Well, it’s that time of year around here…for some reason the nasty bronchitis/cold/ick goes around in early spring down here, and I swear half the people I know are struggling through it right now.  Being sick is, generally speaking, a rather unpleasant sort of thing, and I try to avoid it as much as possible.  I’ve warded off this spring’s epidemic with my favorite tea.  Anything that can keep me writing and fighting is good in my book!  And this tea has the benefit of being insanely delicious.

So.  Here you are…Lemon Ginger Tea.  Are you ready for this?  It’s really, really complicated.lemongingertea

You need:

  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Ginger (fresh is best, but I’ve used powdered and even crystallized ginger before)
  • Honey (get local honey if you can!)
  • 1 cup Hot Water

Got that?  Now here are the uber-difficult instructions.  Squeeze the lemon into the hot water.  Grate in about a teaspoon of fresh ginger, or toss in a few shakes of powdered ginger, or add a chunk or two of crystallized ginger (or heck, add crystallized ginger AND fresh ginger!).  Add honey to taste.  I like about 2 teaspoons.  Stir.  Enjoy.

That’s all there is to it!  It’s incredibly powerful as an immune booster, because lemons have much more Vitamin C than oranges (and orange juice in cartons loses its Vitamin C due to denaturing in about a day after opening), and ginger is a huge help for respiratory and circulatory health.  And of course honey is just a super food all on its own.

Now grab that cup of tea and go cozy up with a good book to write or read!

~J. Leigh

Photo credit: sweetbeetandgreenbean / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Mar 27

J. Leigh’s Website Overhaul

I’m in the process of renovating my author website…Wordpress is making things so much easier for me!  *happy dance*  I didn’t really have time to keep the old site maintained, because I’m a terrible coder and it takes me hours to figure out how to do anything.  It should probably annoy me that I spent almost an entire day trying to figure out how to create a Lightbox gallery for my artwork on my old site, and now I can just create a page and click “Add Gallery” and voila!  Easy-peasy.  But it doesn’t annoy me.  Not much, anyway.

Anyway, pop on over and see how you like it!  I tried to keep the feel of the old website while streamlining it a bit.  And excuse the mess…it’s still coming along.

Feb 17

Ten Quirky Things about S.K.

Hi all!

I’ll be back with some more serious posts next week…but in the meantime, would you like to know a few things about me that aren’t in my author bio?

Like the fact that I have a horrible time making decisions when sunglasses and restaurants with atmosphere are involved?

Or the fact that Silesia: The Outworlder was inspired by a nightmare?

If you’d like to see the rest of my quirky facts, head on over to BestsellerBound Recommends for my “Tell Us One Thing” author interview!  (And no, I don’t ship cheesecakes.)

Happy writing and reading!



Feb 15

Vivid vs. Violet Verbiage — The Vivid

Now that we’ve cleared up the meaning of purple prose, I can talk a little bit about what makes great prose so beautifully vivid.

Please note that, for all I’m warning you to avoid the overly-ostentatious verbiage, I’m not recommending reducing your vocabulary to the grade-school level.  No, your writing should always bring some challenge to the reader — it should expand their horizons, imaginative, philosophical, and intellectual.

Now, what makes prose beautiful?  Quite simply, it is using good words well.  Besides all the things we’ve talked about elsewhere (rhythm, cadence, sound), it is fundamentally about using the right words at the right time.  For instance, both “foggy” and “murky” can describe an obscured environment, but they convey this sense in two totally different ways.  Foggy has a more pleasant connotation, whereas murky suggests latent evil and mystery.

Likewise, “gloomy” and “murky” both have dark connotations, but in different ways.  Gloomy has a feeling of something sad, repressed, weighted down, rather passively bringing people in that environment into the same sort of state.  Murky almost feels more actively evil…something that tries to entangle hapless travelers in confusion and danger.  (It is not for no reason that Tolkien called the dark, sinister version of the Greenwood “Mirkwood.”)

All right.  So, we know that we need to use the right word for the job, and to construct our sentences carefully, descriptively, and rhythmically.  But what else?  Is there anything else?

I’ve read some great fiction where the writers used clear, expressive prose.  Sentences flowed with no jarring rhythmical errors, scenes came to life with bright and lush description…. And that was fine.  I love those books.  They are beautiful, well-written, and have their own flair of poetry and lyrical merit.

Lately I’ve discovered something else, though — a new way to bring life to prose.  I first noticed it in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races.  Some people may think she went overboard on her metaphorical prowess, but simply the fact of what she did made me completely reevaluate how I thought about “poetic” prose.

For instance, in The Raven Boys, she talks about how Ronan “dissolved what was left of his heart in electronic loops.”  This simple sentence is sheer. utter. genius.  Just look at how much she conveys, how vividly she conveys it, in so few words.  The dissolving suggests just how loud the music is playing.  Instead of telling us exactly that Ronan is listening to techno or electronica, she suggests it through “electronic loops.”  And the best part of all is that she says “what was left of his heart” instead of “his heart” which in just a few words clues the reader into a hugely important aspect of this kid’s character.

So what exactly did Stiefvater do?  She used fairly typical language — but in remarkably unexpected ways.  I remember in The Scorpio Races she talked about bicycles “bucking off” their riders, or how someone’s breath is “dark, the underside of the sea.”  For one thing, we don’t usually think of someone’s breath being “dark”…but what a vivid picture that paints!  And describing it as the “underside of the sea” links the character to the wild, mysterious, and deadly sea.  She employs a metaphor without ever using “like” or “as”, but in a way, the comparison is even stronger.

I have to credit Stiefvater for opening my eyes to a whole new way of understanding vivid language.  It invokes a fresh and almost…skewed…way of looking at reality, in the sense that you’re still examining reality, but not straight-on as most people do.  You look for connections that you never knew existed.  When you make a comparison or a metaphor, you avoid the old cliched tropes, the old standbys, the familiar similarities.  You look for the unexpected, the startling, the “why didn’t I ever think of that” connections — and I don’t mean you’re trying to shock or appall your reader.  You’re trying to delight by making them see the world in a new way.

For instance, say you wanted to describe your character running away as fast as possible.  You could say, “Anna bolted, fast as a rabbit.”  Yawn.  Everyone knows rabbits are fast.  Everyone knows that when you want to describe something as fast, you use a rabbit.  Booooring.  Well, what if you said, “Anna bolted, quick as fear.”  Huhhh???  Suddenly that invokes whole new vistas of meaning.  Not only is there the suggestion that Anna is running because she’s terrified, but it also makes you think about what fear is like, maybe in a way you’ve never thought of before.  In other words — you think about the thing being described as well as the thing used to make the description.

Sometimes even inverting a description can be a fun way to convey an idea.  For instance, going back to the fear idea, we all know how “fear runs like ice through her veins.”  But what if you read, “a chill inched through her veins like fear.”  Nice.  Or, similarly, “shame rushed like blood to my cheeks.”  We all know that blood does rush to your cheeks when you’re ashamed or embarrassed, but really, you don’t feel the blood so much as the shame.  It’s a quirky way of making you think twice about how you understand both shame and blushing.

Another way of spicing up the prose is to use a metaphor which itself contrasts two things that are either vastly different in character, or vastly different in degree.  For instance, in Prism I describe a conflict between two characters as being “like watching a fight between lions or gods.”  On the one hand, I suggest the rather raw, animal anger driving them — something not human, but in a sub-human way (though the lion image is intentionally used to convey something awesome and majestic, as well as terrifying).  But on the other hand, they are compared to gods, suggesting something so high above ordinary human experience that it’s almost incomprehensible — something also not human, but in that lofty, super-human sort of way.  In both cases, you get a sense of the utter foreignness of their conflict, but in two opposite ways.  They are both these things, and yet at the same time we know that they’re just two men.

Using language like this can really add another dimension to your prose.  It’s not necessary to do it all the time (and some readers might not like it), but when you do, using language in new and unexpected ways can really delight and tantalize your reader.

Notice that, even while the descriptions are unexpected, they don’t pull you out of the fictional world the way purple prose does.  I’d almost argue that it weaves you into the world of imagination tighter than ever.  The experience of reading a book like that — for me — is so…wildly alive that I don’t want to leave.  Especially if the descriptions really do a good job of matching the narrating character’s voice.  That’s hugely important — but the topic for another post.

Finally, notice that in these few examples I’ve given, no huge long multisyllabic words were used that required the venerable Oxford English Dictionary to decipher.  You can create beautiful, vivid, unbelievably poetic prose with ordinary (though not necessarily simple) words.  In a sense the most important skill it requires is not a vast vocabulary, but an ability to see the world in an excitingly fresh way.  Give it a shot.  I bet you’ll find that it makes you a better writer — even if you don’t use these metaphoric techniques often — simply because it broadens your vision and view of reality.

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