But What Does It Feel Like?

I decided to write a new scene today, set in a chandler’s shop.  It was kind of fun, creating a scholarly old man who teaches Mara how to tell the difference between beeswax and tallow candles, and how much he’ll pay for the discarded ends of each.  I made it a point to do a lot of description, too, of the shop, the candle maker, even the scales and weights he uses.

I also had to describe how the candles feel, since that’s how he teaches her to tell them apart.  Unfortunately the only candles I can recall feeling are the store-bought paraffin ones, which aren’t really helpful.  (Petroleum-based products are somewhat out-of-place in this fantasy story.)

Fortunately, I found a website that describes how to make tallow candles and what they look and feel like.  (This is especially good since I don’t know that anyone keeps tallow candles around much any more.)  I figured they’d feel a bit like the suet used to feed birds, and it sounds like I wasn’t too far off.

However, while I could find lots of directions for how to make beeswax candles, I couldn’t find a description of what they feel like.

I tried to find some actual candles, so I could feel them for myself, but the two stores that I checked failed me.  (They each failed me for different reasons; one didn’t have the candles, the other was closed on Sundays.)  I’m probably going to give at least one more store a peek tomorrow, but I also went to my friends on Facebook who actually helped me a bit.  The description of the difference between a beeswax candle and a paraffin one is at least enough for a start.

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Writing Practice

In preparation for NaNo, I am going to give myself specific assignments for my descriptive writing practice.  Tonight the assignment is to describe an outfit.  Clothing and I are not always writing pals.

His jaw dropped as she walked into the room.

Her hair had been freed from its usual tail, cascading down her shoulders in a profusion of red-gold curls.  A clip adorned with iridescent blue feathers caught just enough of her tresses to bare her right ear.  From the lobe hung a sapphire, a drop of pure blue suspended in a fine web of silver.  The smooth skin of her right shoulder was kissed only by curls.

From her left, shimmering blue silk fell in two directions.  It flowed loosely over her arm, swirling gracefully as she moved.  As it crossed her body, the fabric hugged her closely and silhouetted her curves.  Waves of cobalt fell from her hips, nearly reaching the floor near her left foot.  Delicate silver straps crisscrossed her instep and revealed perfectly painted toenails.  His eyes followed her hem back up, to where the blue silk stopped short of her right knee and exposed her shapely calf.   A giggle drew his eyes back to her face.  Mirth danced in vivid eyes the exact shade of her dress, framed by lush lashes, and a smile graced her strawberry lips.

“Like what you see, do you?” she asked in a playful tone.

Writing Practice

In preparation for NaNo, I am going to give myself specific assignments for my descriptive writing practice.  Tonight the assignment is to create and describe a bedroom.

She stood in the doorway and stared.  The room was not what she had expected.

The hardwood floor was covered with a plush rug worked in a pattern of red and gold swirls.  Where the floorboards were visible, their warm tone was polished to a glossy shine.  The heavy bedframe seemed made of the exact same wood, its honey-colored posts intricately carved with abstract loops and whorls.  A massive mattress was topped by a scarlet bedspread covered in detailed thread-of-gold embroidery and layered with a extravagance of pillows in several complimentary shades of crimson and burgundy.  Velvet curtains hung at the corners of the canopy, standing prepared to enclose the bed when she was ready to sleep.

Despite its size, the bed did not dominate the space, nor dwarf the remaining furnishings.  A stout table stood to either side of the bed, each topped with a small red cloth and a graceful golden lamp in the shape of a tree.  To her left, a bureau reached only to her waist but stretched nearly the length of the bed.  Across the room from the bed, a matching table was flanked by two armchairs.  At first their lush scarlet upholstery seemed out of place, but then she noticed the frames and legs made of the same wood and carved in a similar style as the rest of the room.

Feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of warm colors, her eyes sought the window on the far wall from where she stood.  It too was draped in scarlet and gold, but to her relief the curtains were pulled to the side.  A bench, of a piece with the rest of the room, was placed to encourage one to sit and gaze at the view.  Amazed by what she saw, she was more than happy to leave her luggage at the door, cross the room and oblige.

Speaking Without Words

Last night I went to see War Horse, which is an intense and powerful performance focused on a horse (and the humans around him) that fought in World War I.

Just a few minutes ago, my dog kicked his empty food dish.

While these two things seem totally unrelated, they both linked in my mind because they are great examples of communicating without words.

Eli let me know that his bowl was empty, and he was hungry, by banging the metal bowl and making a noise.  He’s learned that this will get my attention, and food will appear.  He will also carry his empty water bowl into the living room, if kicking it or knocking it around didn’t work.  He has figured out a way to let me know his needs, and get them fulfilled.

War Horse uses huge, three-person puppets as the horses, but you don’t really notice the puppeteers most of the time.  The horses breathe, flick their tails, and move their feet in the same way as real horses.  People ride them, too, which is amazing.  But the coolest thing to me is the expressions.

Horses have very expressive ears, and they communicate a great deal by posture.  The creators of the show and the puppeteers have done an amazing job of capturing that method of communication.  Even from the mezzanine, I could tell when the horses were scared, nervous, or curious, simply by their ears and body positioning.

Animals can (and do) communicate very readily without words.  As authors it behooves us to notice these details and perhaps have the opportunity to capture one or two in our writing.

Writing Practice

As he got to the end of the page, he realized that the room had fallen silent.  For the past half an hour, there had been the pleasant, quiet clicking of computer keys.  Now, nothing.

Glancing across the room, he almost couldn’t keep from chuckling.  She sat on the couch, computer on her lap, with her head upraised and cocked slightly to the left.  When she wrote, she bit the right side of her lower lip, mouth slightly open.  Now she had closed her mouth, forming a tight line with the left edge poking out.  Her eyebrows had raised, but the outside of the right pulled down, giving her two tiny vertical wrinkles between them.  The very edge of her nose tried to crinkle, and her eyes were fixed steadfastly on the seam between ceiling and wall.  The vacant look in them told him that her focus was not, in fact, on the wall, but very much inward.

He’d seen that look before, and he knew what was happening.  He waited a few more minutes before asking her, “Stuck?”

Blinking, her face returned to normal as she smiled at him.  “Little bit,” she said.

He chuckled, she grinned bigger, and both returned to the tasks in front of them.

Writing Practice

She wiggled her toes inside of her boot, trying to relieve the small but growing pain where a wrinkle in her sock was rubbing oddly against her toe.  When that didn’t work, she bent down and adjusted her sock.  She caught a glimpse of the now-filthy hem of her loose nylon pants and sighed.

Adjusting her hat, she started hiking again.  Absentmindedly she rubbed the back of her neck, then frowned down at her hand and rubbed her fingers together. Her skin had the sticky, gritty feeling that was left when sweat captured dust from the air before drying.  She licked her lips and grimaced, tasting the sharp chemical bite of insect repellant.  After a sip of warm, stale water from her bottle, she sighed again and continued putting one foot in front of another.

Rounding the corner, the trailhead came into sight just as a breeze picked up.  Her nose crinkled as she caught a whiff of unwashed human; as the parking area was empty and she hadn’t seen anyone for the last few hours, she knew the acrid stink belonged to her.  Clearing the edge of the woods, she saw her car and picked up her pace.  Her stuff was already loaded, she’d finally found that stupid nuthatch, and it was more than time to head home.  At the end of three days of camping, she was craving nothing more than a hot shower.  She rubbed her forehead and then stared at the filth smeared across her palm.  It would need to be a long, hot shower, with an excessive amount of soap.

Making an Effort to Look Up

Two friends and I went out tonight to try to get a look at the Perseid meteor shower.  I was hoping that it would provide blog-worthy astronomy descriptions, but we weren’t really in optimal conditions.

First of all, we didn’t really get away from the city lights.  There is a dark spot near my apartment complex, where the street and building lights are all at the edges of sight, but it turned out to still have too much light to really see much.  There were also clouds drifting through; not thick enough to totally mar the sky, but enough to make stargazing a challenge.  We also didn’t give it a lot of time – two of us needed to be in relatively early – so we weren’t outside for peak viewing.

We saw a few vague streaks, but nothing really remarkable.  Mostly it was a beautiful night for a stroll and good company.  We were rewarded with a movie-quality moon, though.

The moon was nearing half-full, with the typical vertical orientation seen in tattoos and children’s artwork.  It sat low to the horizon in the west, creating the illusion of size, and it still  reflected enough of the long-set sun to shine orange.  Thin clouds caught the glow, framing the crescent, with wisps drifting dramatically across its face.  Hanging above the tree line, the moon was set apart from nearby lights, the dark sky providing a perfect backdrop.

There you go.  Now you had the same experience I did: very little in the way of meteors, but one excellent moon.  🙂

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