Monday, May 4, 2020

Word Pictures by Jeanette-Marie Mirich

Jeanette-Marie Mirich
Writing descriptions that aren't too flowery and that invite your reader deeply into the story can be tricky. Our guest today, Jeanette-Marie Mirich, has some tips for painting word pictures that help readers experience the story setting with the characters. Read on! ~ Annette

Words have always been part of my life. My father, a poet, strung words together like a master jeweler creates a pearl necklace. Language came easily to me until this winter, when I was on a tour of the Holy Land.

As we walked where Jesus did, I was overcome with emotion. While roaming the Judean hills, words slipped through my grasp like fragile dreams. But I want to communicate the images that linger in my mind of the wilderness of desert, boats on the Sea of Galilee, and the massive rock where Masada broods.

How do I pass on this experience? There are several elements to bringing the world you’ve observed or created to others. I’ll share three.

1. Observation: A distant perspective. The journalist in a safe, familiar place.

I come to a landscape like a pirate scanning an island from his ship. He has studied charts and maps, and from a distance, he sweeps the inlets with his spyglass.

To prepare for our Israel adventure we read H.V. Morton’s travel book, In the Footsteps of the Master, Twain’s book, Innocents Abroad, maps, and scripture before setting foot on the Golan Heights.

When we arrived, thunder echoed above the churning Mediterranean Sea as January rain slanted down and filled the wadis with muddy water.

However, driving from the airport to our hotel, I couldn’t smell the rain. The feel for the land eluded me until icy rain trickled down my collar and the shrieking wind assaulted my ears. We want to pass that experience along in our writing.

2. Exploration: Drawing a reader closer to the environment. Get out of the boat.

My imaginary pirate reaches a tropical beach and when his/her bare feet hit the sand, s/he pockets the spy glass (or travel guide) to begin a more intimate experience.

The adventure of walking with Lucy into C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe captures us. Brushing the fur coats as we pass makes it real.
Standing at the site where the Lord sought refuge from the hordes of people that pressed on him, I wrote word impressions in a pocket notebook. I scribbled “buses, head-to-tail with their lookalike competitors, puffed black smoke” with a line for a poem.
The framework of our tale would be a one-dimensional backdrop if we failed to unearth the minutia that makes a place unique. I want to fabricate anticipation when designing a setting.

How careful research affects a writer's descriptions for the reader's benefit. #amwriting #amreading @MirichMarie

3. Discovery: Writing archeology or getting dirty as you excavate for hidden treasure.

That means digging into research. The sand on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is soft, the crystals curved and used for castings. The sand near Cannon Beach in Oregon is cream, gray, and cold. Its sharp edges grind into your toes and leave a gray residue. We, like Lucy, are pulled further in when our senses are activated.

From seeing the golden stones of Jerusalem as I enter the city (observation) to walking along the cobbled streets made smooth by millions of footsteps (exploration), I am drawing closer. When I cover my head with a scratchy scarf, finger my ragged-edged bit of paper as I weave my prayers into the sun-warmed wailing wall, I’m experiencing and discovering life.

Life, filled with textures and smells, eerie sounds of language, the taste of salt when we walk near the Dead Sea, and the sight of weeping pilgrims invades my writing, and I pray, the reader’s hearts.

Enjoy letting words reveal the sensory gifts God has given to draw readers deeper into your story world.

Your turn: Have you found a good balance for writing description that engages your reader's senses? What are your favorite methods?


The Last Roses
When Delilah Morgan sends a jaywalking deer over an embankment, her peaceful life takes a leap into chaos. As autumn winds howl, a phone call from Lyle Henderson, the man she loves but hesitates to marry, interrupts her misery.

The Last Roses, the second novel in the D.B. Burns mystery series, finds Delilah and Lyle encountering a trail of rumors, a break-in at Lyle’s remote cabin and mayhem as they traverse North Carolina from Piedmont to mountains. Life returns to almost normal in their small Kentucky town until an envious professor besmirches Delilah’s deceased husband’s character. Plans to clear her Harry’s name are hijacked by Delilah’s goddaughter’s kidnapping.

George Salas’ friends from his clandestine days arrive to seek the kidnappers. Will they find the trafficking ring and rescue Savannah Hudson before she disappears in the underworld of vice?

Against the admonition of the local sheriff, Delilah begins to interview families whose daughters have disappeared. Her involvement leads to her kidnapping and to villains intent on frying her like bacon.


“Have bags will travel” should be the motto of Jeanette-Marie Mirich’s life. She moved twenty-two times before settling in her first home. An Oregonian by birth, Jeanette has swum in the Ligurian Sea, collected shells and sea glass along the Indian Ocean, Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean Oceans, Straits of Malacca, Gulf of Mexico and the Andaman Sea. Her peripatetic lifestyle is courtesy of the U.S. Air Force and her husband’s medical training. Passionate about needs in the third world after living in Thailand during her husband’s deployment, she has accompanied her husband on dozens of medical mission trips. Mother of three, Grammy to thirteen exceptional grandchildren, she travels from her Kentucky home to an Oregon cabin, scribbling poems and short stories as well as writing novels. Connect at or on Facebook or Twitter.