I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Writing Is Painting with Words

Delores Topliff

In Amsterdam's Rikstad Museum, a friend pointed out one special touch that made Rembrandt an outstanding master. His subject’s eye color was not simply solid brown or blue, but was highlighted with a single speck of white or pearl color, like light hitting and refracting from the eye, making it more life-like. Gaze in the eyes of a close friend or family member. Check their eye color, and you’ll see what I mean. Greatness comes from such detail.
Well-chosen details in writing help our characters stand out from one another. Or describe a landscape in such specific detail we know what mood or emotion will follow. Shakespeare mastered that skill. Dickens brought it to perfection. His sunlit landscapes with balmy skies prepare us for happiness. Storms, with thunder and lightning rolling for light and sound effects, set the stage for brooding disaster. We feel shuddering terror in his Great Expectations graveyard scene just before the terrible Magwitch rises from behind a tombstone and demands food. The spider-web garlanded home of aged spinster, Miss Havisham, including her intact rotted wedding cake, shows as much information as the dialogue tells--and we nearly need to hold our hankies to our noses.
Choose a favorite book or scene that stays with you, utilizing a skill you’d love to use in your own writing or conversations. Kipling’s Jungle Booksincludes this northern India panorama scene, inviting our eyes to take the journey, too. In my mind’s eye, I have repeated this journey more times that I can count:
            “Looking across the valley, the eye was deceived by the size of things, and could not at first realize that what seemed to be low scrub, on the opposite mountain-flank, was in truth a forest of hundred-foot pines. Purun Bhagat saw an eagle swoop across the gigantic hollow, but the great bird dwindled to a dot ere it was half-way over.” 
Now please name a favorite book or scene and share what you love most about it. 


  1. I have way too many favorite scenes and books to name one, so I will name a scene in my book, Matthew's Choice that comes out in September. It's a scene with Noah, a nine-year-old boy and he's dancing with his mother. In the scene the reader can see the living room--the Christmas tree with paper ornaments, the crates for tables. An a little boy trying to take care of his mother. It is my favorite scene in the book.

  2. I saw part of this in rough draft, can't wait to see published--sounds great. And thanks for helping me w/ this today!

  3. Here's some nice "word-painting" from Susie's book, The Shadow of Your Smile: "Noelle longed for the redemption that came with a fresh snow. The way it blanketed the northern woods of Minnesota with lacy grace, frosted the shaggy limbs of the white pine, turned the grimy dirt roads and highways to ribbons of pristine, unblemished white." (Then a few sentences later) "But this snow offered no such redemption." How could you not read on???

  4. Not a scene from a book, but one from a Royal Academy exhibition.

    JMW Turner entered a large seascape, which drew accolades. But then, across from it in the hall was placed a painting representing Shadrach et al in the Fiery Furnace. It's colours dominated the room, and seemed to wash out Turner's work.

    On the day before the exhibition officially opened, Turner came in with his paints (artists were allowed to work upon their pictures even at that point). He looked around the room, and then quickly went to his canvas, daubed some red lead, and fashioned it into a buoy riding the gunmetal waves. Then he left, having in one tour de force stroke re-established his domination of the hall.

    Turner's friend, the art critic John Ruskin, came by a few minutes later, asking after Turner. The painter of the Firey Furnace piece was there, pale and upset.

    "Yes, Turner..he has been here, and fired a gun."


  5. I really appreciate these specific and, in Andrew's case, amazing quotes. Thanks!