Monday, December 3, 2018

Creating Magical Moments by Annette M. Irby

glass bell Christmas ornament*

On silent footfalls in the dim auditorium, the choir members made their way down the aisles to stand among the enraptured audience. 

Hark, how the bells
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say
Throw cares away

I held my breath. Closed my eyes. Their a cappella voices resounded off the ceiling, the walls, surrounding the audience. I lost myself in their notes, trying to capture the moment to savor later. I’ll never forget that concert.

Have you experienced something like that in a movie or a book or a concert? Where art takes you someplace meaningful, personal, and magical?

We authors have a chance to create those moments for readers. I’m guessing that like me, you can immerse yourself in the story world you’re writing. When you get into the zone, your senses are affected.

Recently, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—November). I lost myself in the story world at Christmastime and deeply experienced the emotions and setting where my characters lived. The snowstorm, the injury, the fudge. 😉 As I left my writing desk to tackle other tasks, I relived the scenes. I couldn’t wait to get back to that story. That’s how readers will feel, we hope. But when I returned to my computer, and read back through, I didn’t feel the same emotions. As the reader this time around, I needed help getting immersed (the author’s job) and found the scenes lacking. What happened? Obviously what was playing through my mind as I wrote it, wasn’t fully translated on the page. Probably, in my hurry to get the words down, I left out phrases that would tug my readers under water with me. So, I layered those in during the edits.

Here are some tips for layering in magical elements so that your readers will also experience them:

* Use the five senses. Let us taste the gingerbread, smell the sugar cookies baking, see the sparkling Christmas lights, hear the carols, and feel the hero or heroine’s hand in ours.

* Include a relatable, emotional tie-in. I’m writing a Christmas story, and almost everyone can feel nostalgic at Christmas. If I include a phrase or two that taps into that relatable element, readers may experience it with me. When readers relate, they bond with the story, with the author, and with the memory. Your story becomes memorable.

* Don’t expect the first draft to capture all that you’re feeling as you write it. In the first draft, let yourself fast draft—just get the words out. Include as many layers as you can, but don’t miss those phrases of dialogue that flow into your mind in favor of layers. Save the layering until the next read through, if there’s no time to do it immediately.

* Give yourself some distance. Once the rush of writing those scenes relents, give yourself some time off. Take a walk. Wash the car. Sleep on it. Then, come back and approach from a reader’s POV, rather than your writerly one. That’s when you’ll be objective enough to know what’s needed.

* Let crit partners in. Have someone you trust read it. This can be either a reader or a fellow writer (who is, of course, also a reader). Let them share how it impacted them. Tell them what you were going for. You are hoping it’s magical; they’ll let you know if it is.

* Read novels by other writers. And when you do, ask yourself if any of the scenes take your breath away, make you want to savor the moment. Those are magical scenes. Then, ask: what about this scene—or what led up to it—makes this a memorable and powerful scene? How did this author do that? How can I do it in my own writing? We writers are always learning the craft through study.

* Not every scene has to be magical. So much of what we write is ground work for those magical moments. The rest of the concert has faded from my memory, except that golden carol. That’s okay. As in life, not all story moments are magical.

Here’s to creating those magical moments that capture our readers, making our books memorable, encouraging people, showing light and hope.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must relive a choir concert in my imagination. Feel free to join me. The lights are dim, and the audience holds their breath. The choir forms a semi-circle within the audience, lifting their perfectly blended voices in an a cappella version of Carol of the Bells. 

Hark how the bells,
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say
Throw cares away
Christmas is here
Bringing good cheer
To young and old
Meek and the bold

Write on, friends!


FL on Bainbridge Island, Washington

Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out.

Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago. 

Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past?

Annette M. Irby**

Annette M. Irby has been writing since her teen years when she sat pounding out stories on a vintage typewriter just for fun. Since then, she’s joined Christian writing groups and launched blogs so she could share the joy of writing. She likes to say she’s addicted to color as flowers and seascapes inspire her. In her off hours, she enjoys gardening, photography, and music. She lives with her husband and family in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more here on her Seriously Write Page

* Photo of Christmas bell ornament: Pixabay
** Author Photo credit: Sarah Irby at Irby Photos