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Welcome to my blog. Here you will find tips that will help you write books and articles that establish you as the expert in your market.
                   --Lee Pound

February 2020
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Nine Ways to Add Visual Impact to Your Writing

A fuzzy adjective is any overworked word that appears to describe a subject but leaves no visual image in the reader’s mind.

For instance, such words as beautiful, pretty, handsome, ugly, terrible, horrible, and nice give us a quick general impression of the person we want to describe but provide no details.

If I write, “He was ugly,” you might think of the Hunchback of Notre Dame or Dracula when I mean to create an entirely different image. The following paragraph is an example of fuzzy writing.

Elizabeth entered the bar, looking to the right and to the left, admiring the half dozen handsome men seated alone, none of whom wore a chrysanthemum in his lapel. Then she saw him, seated at the back, in a shadow. “What an ugly man,” she thought. She hesitated, and then walked up to him.

At first glance, this seems to present a picture of a woman looking for a man she does not know in a bar, perhaps on a blind date. However, the paragraph is not satisfying. It seems incomplete, as if an important note were missing.

And it is. This paragraph contains no visual cues for the reader. Even the mention of the chrysanthemum emphasizes the lack of a visual cue. In order to make this paragraph work, the writer must give clues so the reader can answer the following questions:

  1. Where is this bar? Is it in Mexico or New York City, Berlin or Moscow, London or Paris? A clue can be the woman’s name. Olga places us in Russia, Celine in France or Quebec, or Ingrid for Sweden. The writer could name the bar. The Boar and Swallow is likely to be an English pub. Mulligan’s will be Irish. 
  2. Is this a fancy hotel bar or a dump in a bad part of town? The name or the street may give a clue.
  3. How did Elizabeth enter? Did she stroll in, open a door to get in, push through a swinging gate, rush in, or hesitate before entering? Answering this question gives us a clue to her mental state.
  4. How does she look around? Did she stare? Did she stop and glance furtively
  5. Is she old or young? How is she dressed? Is she in jeans and a t-shirt, a fancy dress, a pants suit
  6. How does she admire the men? Are they older or younger than she? Does she want them to be her date? Does her gaze linger on them?
  7. Did she search for her date, spot the flower first or the man? What was her physical reaction?
  8. What made the man ugly? Was it his physical features or her expectations? If we see an average man and hear her call him ugly, we get a better picture of her mental state.
  9. What does she do when she approaches him? Does she walk fast or slow, with an attitude or friendliness?

Now lets look at the paragraph again using different words that convey stronger meaning.

Margaret hesitated at the carved oak and glass door leading into the Rabbit and Squirrel. One of London’s best pubs, she thought. Good taste. She opened the door. A murmur of voices and clinking glass greeted her. Waitresses marched from the bar at the right to the crowded tables. Where was he? she thought. A man who could have passed for Tom Cruise sat alone nursing a beer. Two others, not quite as good, sat nearby. None wore a chrysanthemum in his lapel. She stepped around the tables moving toward the back, toward the shadows. There it was. The chrysanthemum. She moved her eyes up to the face. “What an ugly man,” she thought. At least compared to Tom Cruise back there. That guy was too young for her anyway. She put on her best smile and walked with a brisk step toward him

With a few additional words and stronger verbs and adjectives, we have created a visual, clear picture of the event we are describing.

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