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'11 Authors Insider Tips

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
From Inspiration to Publication
Writing the First Draft
Seduce Your Reader
Be a Real Writer
Sexy Writing Partnerships

Kill Electrons, Not Trees
by William Gaius
What Does It Mean...?
The Decision to Self-Publish
The Decision To Self-Publish, 2
Printing ... for Self-Publishers
A Copyright Primer
How to POD, free (almost) Part 1
How to POD, free (almost) Part 2

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Three Top Tips...
Not Writing Erotica
The Importance of Being Colin
Dream Writing
To Boldly Go
The Unforgivable Taboo
Managing Multiple Projects
Doing it in Public
Nil Bastardum Carborundum
Workshop Insights

Assorted Attractions

Meet Robert Buckley
Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister

The Write Stuff

by Ashley Lister

Dream Writing


The Write Stuff by Ashley ListerGood description in fiction can produce a sensory reality that makes the narrative wholly immersive.  Many academic texts discuss the physicality of fiction and stress its importance.  I have to agree with all of this.  As a writer and a teacher, I know that describing the world of the imagination can probably take a great toll on a writer.  But it’s essential to get it right so that readers can enjoy the whole experience of the story.

This week my students were involved with one of my favourite descriptive exercises.  It’s one I’ve returned to often and makes for fun practice and I’m sharing it here because I believe lots of practice makes better writers of us all.

  1. Begin by imagining the place where you prefer to write.  This could be a real place: the office, desk or table where you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).  Or it could be an imagined place: a castle on a hill, a romantic cottage in the middle of the woods, a luxury cabin on an ocean cruiser, etc.  Jot down a few notes about the location.

  2. Visualise this place and make notes.  Make notes on what you see, the colours you encounter, and the objects and artefacts that would be typically in this location.  Don’t bother trying to construct full sentences.  At this stage it’s enough to simply catalogue everything important in the scene.

  3. Now make a note of the noises you’d be likely to hear.  Start with quiet noises: the scratch of pen on paper, the soft purr of a cat lazing by the fireside, the languid breath of a recuperating lover.  After compiling your list of the quiet sounds, move onto the louder noises.  Traffic?  An asthmatic computer printer? A barking dog? Music?  Building works?  Again, don’t go into detail.  The essential thing here is just to list the noises.

  4. Next, we should think about ‘touch.’  Go over the list of things you can see in this place and write down how they feel.  Is the writing desk you’ve imagined smooth and polished or worn and splintery?  Is the temperature warm or cold?  Is the air humid or dry?  Write down all these various sensations.

  5. And, finally, move onto tastes and smells.  Tastes and smells are hard to differentiate because they are closely related as physical functions.  Trust me: if it smells like an orange it probably tastes like one too.  If it smells like crap it’s unlikely we’re going to find out what it tastes like.  But, because smells and tastes are so rarely used in fiction, the description of them can make for an intensely realistic piece of writing.  What can you smell in this imagined writing place?  Is there warm coffee brewing?  Are there croissants warming over a toaster?  Fresh cut flowers in the vase on the table?  The perspiration of a close companion as that person walks past?

  6. Now, armed with all these details, put them together into a short piece of intensely descriptive writing.  Describe this writing venue so that your reader doesn’t just imagine the place – they experience it as an immersive reality.  Describe the texture, colour, sights, sounds, tastes and smells. 

  7. Edit as necessary.

  8. And, if you’re wondering how to make this into a piece of erotic writing, imagine what would happen if your dream lover stopped by at your dream writing location…

Happy writing,

Ashley Lister
April 2011

Contact Ashley at Ashley Lister
Find more of Ashley's Write Stuff in ERWA 2011 Archive

"The Write Stuff" © 2011 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, Swingers: True Confessions from Today's Modern Swinging Scene (Virgin Books), a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
Email:  Ashley Lister

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