Write Hacks 4

Phyllis Irene Radford

croppedQuillI have mastered the fine art of being vague and still getting a point across. But my prose is still vague and not always satisfying.

Years ago I attended a writing workshop with Steve Perry, a fine writer in his own right. He held up an object and asked the participants to describe it. Pages and pages of details later–some of us even got up and looked at it more closely–I felt like I could visualize it in my sleep.

Not one of us bothered to ask what it was: an oddly named knife used in an obscure Indonesian martial art.

The name might not trigger a memory in the mind of a reader, but knowing what it was designed for and what name to give it makes all the difference in the world.

So if you don’t know something, ask. Experts love to ramble on about their obsession. That’s why they are experts. With the internet and powerful search engines you the writer, no longer have an excuse. Scroll through pictures, find the knife or gun, dress, and carriage that is right, then SEARCH. Even Wikipedia cites their sources where you can find contact information.

Research can be an end in itself. But that’s another blog all together. Spot research makes your work come alive.


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: www.ireneradford.net Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Write Hacks 4 — 2 Comments

  1. I have found that if you say, “I’m writing a novel” people will answer all sorts of questions. Questions that would in fact land them in jail. I wrote a book in which Edwin Barbarossa had to mainline heroin. How does that feel? I asked around, and drug addicts were perfectly happy to tell me exactly how to do it and exactly how it felt.

    • To be fair, though, I don’t think they would mind sharing that even if you weren’t writing a novel 😉