Saturday, March 5, 2011

The experience. The sensation.

I've been mulling over this point from Alexandra Sokoloff's great post on first chapters:


I cannot possibly stress this enough. We read novels to have an EXPERIENCE. Make yourself a list of your favorite books and identify what EXPERIENCE those books gives you. Sex, terror, absolute power, the crazy wonderfulness of falling in love? What is the particular rollercoaster that that book (or movie) is? Identify that in your favorite stories and BE SPECIFIC. Then do the same for your own story.

So I started doing what she recommended, thinking about my favorite books (and movies) and what experience they delivered and how they did it. Problem is, many books deliver multiple experiences. I'd love to hear if any one has some example of this experience/sensation thing that really jumped out at you lately from a book or movie.

Switch in topics now, I'll try not to derail you (Sorry, I watched the movie Unstoppable last night. Wow. Talk about specifc images and a suspenseful "experience"!) I'm always thankful when someone mentions me on their blog, like Shelley Batt and Alison Stevens did when passing the Versatile and Stylish blogger awards on to me. It's wonderful to have your words acknowledged by someone else in the wide, wide world - which is the beauty of Rachael Harrie's Crusader project. E.J. Wesley, a member of my Crusader group, expanded on this idea by going one step beyond passing on a award: he's taking the time each week to highlight one or two bloggers. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I was sincerely impressed by his idea. So here goes:

You may have noticed that my blog isn't very visual. I sometimes copy images from google and flickr, but it takes such a long time to find that perfect visual that matches my thoughts and intents... yeah, I'm just lazy that way. But I LOVE other blogs that are visually creative. This week I'm highlighting these three bloggers who are creative visually and with their bloggerly words too:

EJ Wesley (
the Open Vein) - because of his great "highlight" idea (why did it take me so long to realize that best kind of promotion we can give ourselves is to promote others? Seriously!) And also he's so wonderfully off-the-wall (great selection of pics and videos) and at the same time dead-on with writerly observations about everything from coffee houses to music industry to the book industry. Still grinning over his take on territorialism in coffee houses.

Candice Kennington (
Suffering from Writer's Blog) - she's unpretentious and funny (both with her stick figures and her snippets of life), which is a special combination.You gotta read this post about "buss" - can't help myself, gotta give you a sample:
Me: "My blogger friend Chantele (proceeds to explain blog)... So do you know what the word buss means?"
Husband: (thinks for several seconds...) "Is it some kind of stick?"

Me: (overly pleased that I've stumped him for once and still ticked about losing Trivial Pursuit hundreds of times) "Nope!! You're wrong. You're wrong. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah." (Okay, I didn't actually say that, but my eyes did. I then told him the definition and my sentence.)"Wasn't my sentence a clever tongue twister? Are you sad that yoooouuuu didn't know the word?"

Husband: "Buss my Butt!"

Me: (Feigning shock and indignation and then laughing)

Husband: "or better yet, buss off."

Me: "Hey!"

Husband: "I'm sorry, was that the buss of death?"

Me: (Laughing, again)

Husband: "Here let me make it up to you." (Begins to sing) "Buss-a-me, buss-a-me muuuuuuuchooooooo..."
Akossket (Nye Louwon - My Spirit) - because her blog's tagline "a search for the writer in me" is so beautifully and openly shared both in her words and her sketches. I really want to post a copy of that sketch here, because I've felt the exact same way a million times (writing her right now for permission to post sketch)

More highlights in future posts...


  1. Having just read the Afrika Reich - the experience I got was of being pulled through the non stop action mill in the heat and blood of the Congo while being chased by crazed Nazis! I've also just seen The King's Speech. I guess the first couple of scenes were very powerful - from the sleek and professional BBC reader to the stammering, insecure Duke unable to read his speech. I was emotionally gripped from then on!

    Take care

  2. I recently read 'Room' (about a 5yo boy born into a room with his kidnapped mother who doesn't realise the things on TV are real things in Outside) and the experience was largely fearful. Fear of their captor Old Nick, fear of escape, fear of Outside. Fear and not understanding. In the first chapter there isn't so much fear (no Nick) but to the reader the fact that Jack doesn't understand his unusual situation is there in his daily routine (phys. ed. is moving the furniture and running a hidden semi-circle worn by their feet), it's always there.
    - Sophia.

  3. I just started Anna and the French Kiss.

    It begins with Anna discussing family changes, and then she feels out of place in her new boarding school. She even cries her first night there, being away from everything and everyone she knows.

    I think most people can connect with that out-of-place, isolated feeling.

  4. I read Room too, and it's just...heartbreaking and painful and yet there's hope because the mother was strong enough to create a life for her child within her own nightmare. That was the experience. It was really hard to read as a mother.

    All of the Harry Potter books are an experience for me--I sink into them and am in bliss :)

  5. I'm actually reading nonfiction right now that reads like fiction: Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand (author of Sea Biscuit). The opening starts with a scene where three man are clinging to a raft, lost in the middle of the Pacific for 27 days (during WWII), while sharks circle. Suddenly, a Japanese bomber plane starts shooting at them. The three men are nothing but skin and bones and too weak to jump in the water. Talk about an experience! (And great post, by the way...what a great way to think about first chapters.)

  6. Congrats on the award!!

    I love your tip about thinking of the emotion you want to invoke & then write about it. It's a great way of envisioning scenes! Thanks!

  7. Hi! Fellow crusader dropping by to say hello, follow, etc. Hmmm. A book with an experience? I just finished reading Cutting for Stone which delivers many-- some I'd rather not have!

  8. Thanks so much for the award, Margo, and even more for all of the kind words! I truly love it when another blogger says something nice about what I've done, because I admire all of you so much.


  9. Sounds like some very cool blogs! And as for the emotions we feel from well written books? I think they are very complex, like you said, and it isn't always just one feeling that comes through at a time. I think trying to experience the story along with our characters is a good step in bringing this complexity to life.

  10. I love it when others highlight their favorite blogs. :) So many good ones out there.

  11. We LOVED unstoppable. But we saw it in the theatre and doubt I would enjoy it as much at home. The action kept us on our seat every second. Now that is an experience, You gave me food for thought-- I need to think about what I want my reader to experience with my book. I never thought of that before. Thanks.

  12. Unstoppable was great. I love movies and books where I feel the emotions of the character--particularly angst and romance. Just saw The King's Speech, and you just felt for the poor guy!

    Thanks for pointing me to some great blogs to check out, too!


  13. Congrats on the award!! I love Alexandra's blog and all of her tips. What you said about us wanting an experience is SO true. I read that and thought about what experience I want a reader to have when going through my novel and it cleared up the chapter I was having trouble getting through. Thanks for always giving great advice :)

  14. Congrats on the award!

    Writing for experience is interesting. I do try to write for 'mood'. There are certain things I want to convey with a scene, not just what's happening, but also what the mood is. I guess it's close to or the same thing as experience. :)

  15. I love that idea of evoking a sensation in the first chapter!

    And I'm woefully behind with the awards... thank you for sharing these great links! :)

  16. I read that post, but you put it in a way I'll actually remember. Evoking a sensation in the first chapter. So simple yet so brilliant.

    Now I just have to remember it. *runs off to write it on a Post It* :D

  17. LOL! Love the buss definition from Candice's blog. Thanks for all the links. Always glad to find new blogs. :o)

    And first chapter sensations--Sokoloff put it so well--thank you for sharing.

    Have a great night, Margo!



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