Focusing on Vividness


I found this quotation on Facebook the other day and have been mulling it over in my mind ever since. As a reader, I realise it is what I look for in a book too. I want to be able to identify with the characters, to see what they see, hear what they hear, smell what they smell, and so on through the senses. And yes, the authors who can help me do that are the ones I go back to time and again until I’ve read all the books they have produced.

They are the authors who achieve that vividness in their writing.

As a writer, I analyse as I read. I analyse how they achieve vividness, and try to emulate their methods in my own writing.

The readers among you might enjoy my findings and look for how the authors you read achieve that vividness, and the writers among you might enjoy to put my findings into practice as you work.

In simple terms, I found it is necessary to find and use appropriate descriptive words. As the quotation says, “Focus on trying to be good with vividness.” Remember, your goal is to help your reader see, hear, taste, smell and feel what your characters see, hear, taste, smell and feel. 

Music is one of the most evocative of mediums. It can be calming, relaxing, energising, make you feel elated, happy, miserable or sad. It can get you up on your feet to dance, or settle you to sleep in your bed. The beat can have you tapping your foot or clapping your hands. So how can a writer convey that in words?

When describing music or other sounds, I find it helps if I listen carefully with my eyes closed, and pay attention to how it makes me feel. I know that if I can’t feel it, it will be impossible to help my readers feel it.

What have you found helpful?

As a writer, what words would you use to convey a heavy beat – pounding, thumping, or drumming? Does it make you think of heavy rain? Hailstones? A gentle shower? Is it rhythmic or discordant? How are you going to describe that to your readers? What about the sound of water running? Will it whoosh, drip or dribble. You’ll want to find words to convey that.

How about this for an example of using the sound of hailstones? It’s from Makeshift Memories, my work in progress:

She had seen the hammers. Muckle great beasts. Not as the one her father uses to thump fence posts into hard earth, nor less as the one she uses to fix the wood to the stave when she aids in the work. What she saw as she sat beside Sheamus up at the waterworks were long, thick shafts with great iron heads the like of which she never did set eye upon afore. Having the picture of him sitting astride the rock with four strong men raining heavy blows on the tiny drill he held atween his legs was fearsome. Lying in her cot of a night of winter hail, listening to it heavy on the roof, coming down with a fierce speed, she sees in her dreams four hammers raining down to its tempo and she squirms and sweats in her covers.

Sometimes it’s good to start by describing a sound. Use onomatopoeia, not just to describe the actual sound. Use words that sound like it in your narrative. Let your readers hear what you hear. Let the sound take them on a journey.

Let me share another excerpt from Makeshift Memories, as an example:

Matt knows the route I like to take through the park and we walk through the reed beds on the squiggly boardwalk, built to traverse them like a long wiggly bridge. The wind swishes through the reeds, making them sing with a magical sound. “Listen,” I encourage him, stopping on the bridge. “Wh-o-o-sh! Who-o-o-sh!” I mimic the susurration, my voice hushed, soft and gentle as the air.

Close my eyes and I’m in Africa, standing in the back of a truck in savannah land, watching lemon grass sway, smelling it on the warm breeze. I’ve never been to Africa, but it doesn’t stop me imagining the scene. With little effort, Edinburgh’s dark, damp night turns to blazing African sunshine, clear blue skies stretch for miles, and I’m a million miles away enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back, allowing the breeze to whisk away the remnants of my earlier discomforts.

Do you see how, even before the sound is introduced, a word that sounds like it is used – the wind swishes. Then after the sound is described – Wh-o-o-sh! Wh-o-o-sh! – susurration, hushed, savannah, sway, whisk – all words that are reminiscent of the sound of the rushes. So many ‘s’ sounds! Try them out. Say them slowly in a hushed, drawn-out voice. Isn’t that fun? Can you ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the rushes sway in the wind? The sound transported Caitlin to the African savannah. Can you follow her? She was helped in that she and Matt were on their way home after watching the classic film, Out of Africa, but perhaps the sound helped you see, hear and smell something similar.

When wanting to describe something visual, imagine your pen as a paintbrush. Stroke words out of your keyboard. Coax them till they form the picture. Use words that are vivid, graphic, colourful, evocative.

When describing a yellow dress, it’s not enough to say it’s yellow. There are so many shades of yellow. Is it citrus lemon, sunshine gold, daffodil yellow, yellow neon? Each one is different, each one will show up in your reader’s mind when they read your description.

Here is an example:

The dress I’m going to wear tonight is hidden in the wardrobe till later. I want it to be a surprise for Paul. He hasn’t seen it yet and has no idea of the peaceful hours I’ve spent sewing while he’s been out and about. It makes me smile every time I open the wardrobe door, push aside the things it hides behind, and see my handiwork hanging there. Inspired by the pale, creamy-yellow, woodland primroses that bloom in our garden every spring, designed and fashioned over the summer months after their faded beauty folded and faded further, it has been such a delight to make. Impossible to improve on nature, all I could do was allow the delicate flowers to inform my eye and guide my hand as I sketched and painted, desiring to capture the essence of their beauty in the spring to infuse into my work in the summer.

The georgette material I sought out is gossamer thin and beautiful, the colour soft as sunshine on a misty day, and the dress slips over my still-trim figure in flattering, floaty, fluted layers to just below my knees.

Being so fine, it is one of the most difficult materials I have ever worked with, but worth every painstaking moment of the hours and days it took to cut and sew. Even the buttery silk lining had to be handled gently. Never have I worked so slowly and never have I been so rewarded for my care.

My fingers melt with pleasure as they linger on the fabric, and I long to feel my creation slip over my body to caress my skin. ~~~ Rosanna from Gold Plated by Christine Campbell

Can you picture Rosanna’s dress? Pale, creamy-yellow, woodland primrose – their faded beauty – delicate – the colour soft as sunshine on a misty day – the buttery silk lining. Can you see the delicate colour it is? Can you feel the lightness of the material? Georgette material – gossamer thin – floaty, fluted layers. Can you almost feel the dress slip over your body to caress your skin?

We’ve referenced two of the senses we want to evoke in our readers – three, when you consider how Caitlin feels the sun on her back and the breeze on her skin, and how Rosanna’s dress feels as she touches it and as she slips it over her body.

Perhaps we can talk in the comments about the words we might use to convey the other senses – and perhaps in another blogpost at another time. 🙂


If you’d like to read how Rosanna vividly describes some of the other dresses she creates for herself and her friends, you can buy Gold Plated as paperback or ebook here.

And you can find eight other novels by Christine Campbell here.


Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading? by Guest Author Wendy Janes @wendyproof

Excellent advice from Wendy Janes on getting the best value from your proofreader.

Lit World Interviews

Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading?

I love my job as a freelance proofreader, but sometimes authors make it very difficult for me to do my job effectively.

However brilliant your writing, however delicious your story, if there are too many errors and inconsistencies, you are asking too much of your proofreader to spot everything.

Here are a few examples of things that should have been removed by the author/developmental editor/copy editor prior to proofreading. Just in case you’re wondering, they are all products of my fevered imagination:

  • A tear-jerking family saga opens with Davina playing with her five-year-old brother, Oliver, on the sprawling lawns of their darling papa’s country estate. When our feisty heroine rescues sweet young Oliver from his evil kidnappers two years later, he is ten years old. The hapless Oliver dies in a fire soon after his rescue, and (miraculously) reappears at Davina’s sumptuous wedding to…

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The First Time

They say, ‘There’s a first time for everything.’ and I guess that’s a truism if ever there was one. But, self-evident or not, it may come as a surprise sometimes to find yourself doing something for the first time. Having stood up in the circle and declared, ‘I’m a writer!’ it shouldn’t really have surprised me that, at some point in  my career, I’d be asked to give a talk about writing…but it did…surprise me, I mean. It delighted me too.

Asked to read excerpts from my latest novel, Here At The Gate, my fourth published novel, and to talk about my writing process and getting published the indie way, I felt excited, but nervous too.

I’m passionate about writing, delighted with how Here At The Gate, my #NaNoWriMo 2013 novel, turned out, and passionate too about indie publishing, I knew I could do it. But could I do it well? Well enough to not let down myself and my good friend, Jane, and her boss, who organised the event?

Well, I got through it and it seemed to go well. I’ve had lots of good feedback,


I signed and sold some books,



and I had some lovely chats with new-found friends.


So, yes, this was my first ‘Author Event’ and I hope it will not be my last.


FINAL Front Cover

Available on Amazon:

Barnes & Noble, Waterstones

and can be ordered from bookstores.


#HereAtTheGate #NaNoWriMo #FeedARead #AuthorEvent #BookSigning


What a Welcome Home!

We had a wonderful Writers’ Week in our Writers’ Retreat in the beautiful Angus  countryside. Plenty writing, country walks, healthy eating and great company.


We even made some new friends


Well! I seem to remember the last time I went away for a writers’ week, and had no Internet access, I came home to find I had a bloggers’ award, and here, it’s happened again. What a lovely way to end our Writers’ Week.


Thank you so much, Teagan Kearney, for this delightful award and the kind words you said about me.

Teagan is a fellow blogger who often writes about writing and adds a super Haiku at the end of her blog. Her posts are always interesting, informative and helpful. Do take a look at

As part of the award, I must nominate a number of people to also receive the award, so here are my nominations:

Jo Robinson, a lovely lady who I find enormously encouraging. If there’s a way she can find to help fellow writers, you can be sure she’ll use it. Jo’s blog address is

Jennifer David, another lovely lady whose blog I always enjoy. Do check it out at

Aimee Pow, a young woman who is just beginning to blog about the things she thinks and likes, and needs plenty encouragement to continue. This is a lovely young, refreshing blog. Another one to check out at

Receiving the award also requires sharing three ways you like to help others. Whew! I don’t think of myself as being very useful to anyone else, since I’m physically somewhat limited, but I do try to help anyone I can.

The most important way I help other people is by offering to study the Bible with them, something I have been doing for more than forty years. Although I still have so much to learn myself, I am always happy to share what I already know about the Christian way of life and the positive effects it can have. I don’t do this through my blog or my writing, because I don’t think these are the appropriate forums for such discussion…for me, anyway. I prefer one-to-one conversation about such personal things.

The second way I try to help others is through my writing. My novels are usually about issues that ordinary people face in life. My protagonists find ways to overcome obstacles, using common sense, their hidden strengths and the help offered by others. Some have told me they find my novels helpful to them on a practical and an emotional level.

I try to be generous, both with my resources and my time and I find I am sometimes able to help friends with advice or just a listening ear. I also run a small writing group of friends who are fellow writers, where we can all share our writing tips and experience.

Here are the Lighthouse Award rules in full:
     Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
     Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
     Share three ways that you like to help others.
     Nominate as many bloggers as you like.
     Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
     Have fun!

That’s Another Fine Mess You’ve Got Me Into…


I’d love to have someone to blame, but, really I haven’t. No-one forced my arm. No-one bribed, begged or bundled me into doing it. It just seemed a good idea at the time.

I’ve signed myself up for NaNoWriMo.

Usually, when I write a novel, I deliberate over the story for months, writing plot lines, scrapping them, starting again, abandoning them and finally just getting started to write hoping the plot will take a natural course. But I do usually have the characters pretty well fleshed out in my mind. By the time I start to write, I have usually lived with them in my head for months, getting to know them and how they feel, how they act and how they speak.

Having just finished my third novel, while I am waiting for it to come back from my proofreader, it seemed a good idea to start another. Since I have the next two almost finished and another well underway, it would have been the easiest thing to get on with one of them, but, hey-ho! Folks were all talking about the fun they were going to have in November writing a novel from scratch in a month. 50,000 words in 30 days, just under 2,000 words every day for the month of November. What a fun idea! What a great discipline to have to put distractions aside and get on with my writing every day.

So, in a mad flurry of  bonhomie, I decided to join the gang and signed up for NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month, to those of you who have never heard of it before.

My first thought was to take one of the novels I had partially written and use the month of November to get it finished and licked into shape, but then, on further reflection I realized that would just not be in the true spirit of the challenge, so I have plunged myself into a completely new novel with only the vaguest idea of where it is going and who is going to be in it. So, plotter or pantser? This time round, looks like I’m certainly going to ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ — always supposing I’m going to fly at all. Gulp!

To be continued …

If you feel inclined to read my previous novels to get a handle on my usual writing style, they are available as paperbacks and eBooks

and you’ll find the link just over there > and up a bit^ right under the video clip introducing me to you.

Can you tell? I’m beginning to feel just that little bit manic.


P.S. I completed that NaNoWriMo with 60,000+ words, the first draft of a novel. I went on to edit, rewrite, edit, proofread and polish that first draft for another six months or more — because, let’s face it, it’s not a novel until it’s been well edited and proofread, it’s only a first draft — and published the finished product in 2014. It’s called Here at the Gate, and I’m inordinately proud of it, my first NaNoNovel, my first NaNo baby.

Here at the Gate is also available as a paperback and in Kindle