"A triangle of white light was advancing from the porch into the sitting room, over the curling edge of the electric-blue carpet, which lay untacked on the terrazzo floor.""Porch" and "sitting room" evoke almost genteel images. "Electric-blue" seems rather modern. But the words that really get to the core are "curling edge" and "untacked." Without those minuscule details, the sentence would have a whole different meaning.
What could you say about an object or a scene or a character that would be so right-on it would be unforgettable or would bring that image into sharp focus? Look at this from Rumer Godden in Black Narcissus:
"The woman's face was Chinese, brown and withered like a ginger root; she wore dark blue clothes, a necklace of turquoises and sharp little silver knives, and her hair in pigtails like two grey wires."I don't think I'm going to forget a face withered like ginger root and pigtails that look like two grey wires.
What you're describing may not require eloquent words. The mood may need starkness. Here's Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid's Tale:
"When I'm naked I lie down on the examining table, on the sheet of chilly crackling disposable paper. I pull the second sheet, the cloth one, up over my body. At neck level there's another sheet, suspended from the ceiling. It intersects me so that the doctor will never see my face. He deals with a torso only."Look for just the right words that evoke the emotion, the image, the soul of what you want to say or describe. It's not necessarily easy. It may take many rewrites and a lot of searching for the telling aspects and perfect words. But when you get it right, it can be an epiphany.
It can also be the difference between a so-so book and a great book.
Helen Ginger is a freelance editor, book consultant, blogger, and writer. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write!, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its tenth year of publication.