Season's Greetings, Musers!

Happy Holidays from Becca and myself here at The Bookshelf Muse!

We hope you have a wonderful, relaxing & rejuvenating break with family and friends this season. You work hard all year, and deserve some R & R!

Speaking of R & R, Becca and I are taking a week or so off, but we'll see you in the New Year, ready to cheer as you embark on another year of following your writing passion.

If you're writing during the holidays and need a blogging fix, please check out this selection of popular past posts:

The Seven Deadly Sins of Novel Writing Series

Stocking Stuffers for Writers Series

Evaluating Critique Feedback


The Writer's Bane: Describing a Character's Physical Appearance

The Positive Side of Rejection

And don't forget all those Description Thesaurus entries in the sidebar, of course! 

Happy writing!

Angela & Becca

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: World Building

Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season. 
We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!


Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad WORLD-BUILDING skillz:

1--See your World as a Supporting Character. If you're going to create a brand new world, it needs to be memorable, clearly-defined and believable. Set a goal for yourself that your world will be as well-drawn as your characters, and your readers will be as enamored with it as they are with the people who live there. To do this, you have to...

2--Be Thorough. As well as you know your characters, you have to know your world even more. Before drafting, create a questionnaire that will address every important nuance of your world (religion, history, fashion, rules of magic, physical landscape, climate, etc.) A great place to start is Patricia C. Wrede's Worldbuilder page. You are the god of your world. You need to know every aspect of it if strangers are going to want to come and stay awhile.

3--Be Inspired by Real Life. You want your world to be cool, but some things may not need to be reinvented--gas lighting, ink and paper, the wind-up clock, wheels. If reinvention is going to be super-complicated and an existing something will fit just as well into your world, spare yourself and your reader the trouble. For the mundane, everyday things, keep it simple.

4--Story First. As awesome as your newly-created world is, remember that it's a part of the story, not the other way around. Too many fantastical elements will detract from the story. As with every other aspect of writing, choose your material carefully and edit with care.

5--Follow the Rules. Once you've decided what the rules are, stick to them. Just like any other element of writing, if there are inconsistencies, your reader will see through them. So make sure your world makes sense--to you and the reader--before dropping your characters into it.

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Emotion


Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season. 

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!

Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad EMOTION skillz:

1--Know what you want the reader to feel. Everything you put your character through--good, bad, ugly...it's all to evoke a reaction from the reader. Be mindful of exactly what you want your audience to experience as you write. In order for the book to succeed, the reader must invest in the character's plight and root for them as they struggle.

2--Use everything in your writing arsenal.
Emotions are best shown through physical action, but the choices you make with story elements and structure can also enhance the experience for the reader. Setting choices (day, night, the weather, a setting with emotional tie to a character) can affect mood. Challenging a character's strengths or revealing a weaknesses can bring out raw feeling. Description, wording, pacing, conflict, sentence structure...all of these can and should be used with intent to help bring about a specific reaction/feeling.

3--Be genuine, not melodramatic.
With emotion more so than anything else, it's easy to go a touch too far. Always keep an eye out for proportion when displaying emotion, making sure the reaction is relevant to the situation, within the character's response range and most importantly, cliche-free.

4--Minimize thoughts, maximize action. Showing emotion through thoughts can be a slippery slope and can lead to telling/explaining. Showing emotion physically is difficult for a reason--it means having an intimate knowledge of the way your character expresses themselves. Strive for a balance of showing that leans more on action, with emotional thoughts acting as an enhancement. What your character does to express themselves will have more of an impact than what they think about the situation.

5--Emotions should lead to decisions.
Always keep the story moving forward. A character agonizing over a choice will crank up the tension & heighten stakes, but too much will slow the pace. Remember too, often when emotion is involved, we make mistakes. Mistakes = great conflict!

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Revision




Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season. 

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!

Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad REVISION skillz:


1--Draft first, then revise. Revising while drafting is kind of like trying to decorate a house while it's still being built. How can you figure out what changes need to be made until you can see the whole thing? You also run the risk of never finishing your draft because you can't stop tweaking it. Get the story down on paper before you even think about serious revisions. 

2--Make a list.  Once you've gotten feedback from your critiquers (please get feedback from critiquers), make a list of the changes you'll be making. I like to divide mine into three sections: big picture items (things that need to be reworked through the whole story), specific items (changes in certain chapters/sections), and regular items (problems that I know I have and need to watch for in every book I write). Order your list and hop to it.

3--Read your Manuscript Aloud.  Reading aloud forces you to read more slowly, so your eyes see what's actually on the paper instead of what you meant to put down. It's also easier to hear those repetitious words that need changing, repeated sentence structures, phrases that need smoothing, or anything else that just doesn't sound right.

4--Let it Sit. After a round of revisions, you're probably so familiar with your story that you can't see any more improvements to be made. Or you're just plain sick of it. So put it away. Don't look at it for three months, or six, and work on something else. When you come back to it, you'll have gained the distance to see it clearly and the energy to do what needs to be done.

5--Resist the Urge to Finish.  Sometimes we get so excited to finish a story that we declare it done before it actually is. It may actually take three or eight or twelve revision/stew rounds before a book is ready for publication. I also believe that no book is ever really finished because no matter how much you revise, improvements can still made. So don't aim for 'done'. Aim for excellent or spectacular or some other word that will tell you when you're good to go. Mine is fabulous. If I can't say that a story is fabulous, it needs more revision.

**Want MORE on the topic of strengthening your writing? Visit Angela over at the insightful blog, Adventures in Children's Publishing for a guest post on Honing the Writer's Intuition.

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Drafting



Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season.

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!

Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad DRAFTING skillz:

1--Don't start until you have a road map. I can hear the pantsers screaming, but this applies to you too. If you are an outliner, outline. If you're a pantser, have a plan. Brainstorming means understanding the story you want to write. Know your characters, what their motivations are and most importantly, what your goal is for this novel. Make notes in a journal or doc. to reference--it will help you later if you get stuck. A road map means never facing the dreaded question: What should my character do now?

2--Drafting is not about quality, it's about storytelling. This isn't Hell's Kitchen, It's a first draft. All you need to do is transcribe the story in your head onto the page. Don't agonize over a turn of phrase, or how to convey the perfect description. Give yourself permission to use placeholders if needed (bland descriptions, cliched actions) to be reworked later during revisions. 

3--Create a mental shift. Drafting works best when you can shove everything else aside and just write. To do this, minimize distractions (put a movie on for the kids, unplug the phone, shut off your email) and create a productive writing environment. Choose a mental aid to train your brain that it's time to write: light a candle, for example, or draft the book in a color other than black. Whatever you choose, do this only when you draft and your brain will shift into gear faster.

4--Be consistent. Butt-in-chair, all the way. Make a contract with yourself to set aside so many hours per day or week to draft your book. If you struggle with procrastination, set up a reward system for specific word counts--something that has value to you. If you're brave, try Write or Die. If Twitter is your downfall, turn off the net or try a laptop somewhere without wi-fi.

5--Fight the urge to go backwards. This ties in with #2, but is oh-so-important. Too many writers get caught on the merry-go-round of fixing that their novel languishes forever, incomplete. Always write with the end in mind. If the plot takes an unexpected turn and therefore changes a storyline or event earlier on, don't go back and rewrite. Instead, make notes about the changes as a placeholder and then keep writing the current scene. This way you keep that creative flow and story pacing going. Come back and reinvent the earlier scene after you finish the book, when you have the time and focus needed to get it right.

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Description

Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season. 
We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!


Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad DESCRIPTION skillz:

1--Engage all five senses. It's not just a dog. It's a wheezing, drool-dripping, greasy-haired dog who has recently rolled in dead rat remains, the smell of which requires you to re-swallow that last bite of omelet you had for breakfast. Now that's a dog.

2--Be consistent. Choose words that fit with your tone and describing character. A sad woman's hairbrush is heavy, rough, and drags through her hair like sickly fingers. The same brush in the hands of a child? Glittery, prickly, and made in Santa's workshop.

3--Make your descriptions do double (or triple) duty. A description of a room should not only tell about the room, but also about the person who lives there, or the history of the place, or what it's residents are hiding, or how a visitor might perceive it, or whatever else will add to your scene.

4--Similes and metaphors. These comparisons can pack a descriptive punch if you remember some important tips: keep them simple, make them fitting (to the character, tone, time period, audience, etc.), and don't overuse them.

5--Break it up. Don't tempt boredom by including long paragraphs of description. Sprinkle in the details a bit at a time, through narrative, dialogue, dialogue beats, a character's thoughts, etc.

Stocking Stuffers for Writers: Blogging


Stocking Stuffers is a series for the busy writer/blogger this holiday season. 

We know time is in short supply, so each day leading to Christmas, we'll offer 5 simple, smart tips on an important topic to writers, helping with craft enhancement, revision and social networking!

Today's Stocking Stuffer: Honing your mad BLOGGING skillz:

1--Provide share buttons to Twitter. I can't stress how important this is! Writers look for great articles to tweet about, which brings traffic to your blog...yet many bloggers don't have a share option available on each post. Blogger now offers a social network bar: Go to 'Design', then edit ‘Blog Posts’. Select ‘show Share Buttons’. Other host sites can find share buttons like this one to embed in posts. Make it easy for others to link to your blog content and attract new visitors!

2--Link to your blog in the ‘signature line’ of all your forum profile accounts. Write a short, compelling tag line about your blog to go with it. Every time you post in a forum, other readers will see your signature link, driving traffic to your blog.

3--Don’t make your blog about you, make it about your readers. Understand who your target audience is, what they need most & then provide it for them. Not only will they become loyal readers, they will pass on the word that YOU are a resource worth following!

4--Discover high traffic post ideas by reading writing-related #hashtags on Twitter, and by visiting Writing Forums. Are there questions out there that people are asking, and not finding much info for? Do some research, write a post on the topic and then spread the word. Great topics will always draw readers!

5--Remember blogging is a two-way street. Visit other blogs, comment and socialize. Look for blogs that have a similar target audience as yours and visit the people who comment. Also, consider asking a question at the end of your blog post. This opens the floor to reader participation.

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Daycare

Sight
fenced-in playground, slides, swings, jungle gyms, chalk-colored sidewalks, walls covered with artwork, office, restrooms, janitorial closets, classrooms, tiled or carpeted floors, cubbies, lunchboxes, backpacks, jackets hanging on coat hooks, pencil sharpeners, rectangular and kidney-shaped tables, plastic chairs, baskets of crayons/pencils/glue sticks/safety scissors, teacher's desk, lesson plan book, calendar, stapler, tape dispenser, mug of pens, post-it notes, tissues, hand sanitizer, file cabinet, knick-knacks, bulletin boards with tacked-up artwork, various centers (art, music, seasonal activities, dress-up, kitchen, science, math, reading, puzzles, computer), bookshelves full of books, beanbags and pillows for reading, cupboards/cabinets/shelving for storage, TV, DVD player, white board and markers, folded mats for naptime, garbage cans surrounded by balled-up pieces of paper and cracker crumbs, colorful rug for group activities, windows partially covered by seasonal appliqués and children's artwork, paper projects hanging from the ceiling, glitter, walls dotted with push-pin holes and remnants of tape pieces/blue sticky-tac, children, teachers, parents, volunteers, aides


Sounds
Children laughing/yelling/talking/singing/crying/playing, teachers talking/yelling/reading, children speaking in chorus, phones ringing, shoes slapping on sidewalk, doors slamming, the snick of scissors, happy music playing, squeaky swings, slap of hands in hand games, swish of jump ropes, the rattle of a chain-link fence on a windy day, TVs, scratch of a teacher's pen during naptime, crinkling snack bags, slurp of drink straws, splashing water fountain, chairs scraping on the floor, block towers crashing to the rug, toy cars smashing into walls, quiet rustle of pages turning during story time, splash of water at the sink, toilets flushing, playground gates creaking open, jacket zippers going up and down, musical instruments, printer printing, click of computer keys, whirr of an oscillating fan, noses being blown, sneezing, coughing, sniffling, vacuums, leaf blowers, lawn mowers,

Smells
Snacks (crackers, granola bars, cookies, chips, fruit), juice, milk, coffee, glue, paint, disinfectant, sweat, urine, air fresheners, freshly-copied paper, rain

Tastes
Snacks, juice, water, milk, coffee, sand

Touch
Heated/Cooled air blowing from vents, a child's hug, sticky hands, sweaty hair, soft tissues, smooth table surfaces, cracker crumbs on your chair, the scratch of a pencil or crayon on paper, fuzzy carpets, hard plastic chairs, backpack pulling on your shoulders, gritty sand and dirt from the playground, dusty chalk, prickly mulch, scratchy jump rope in your hand, jar of feet against concrete as you play hopscotch, hands slapping in a hand game, flying through the air on the swing, wind, raindrops, hot slide on the backs of your legs, someone slapping you off-balance in a game of tag, soft beanbag or pillow, tiny pieces of glitter that won't come off your skin, gooey glue, malleable play-dough, cold water from the fountain running down your chin, wet finger paint, squeezy juice boxes, slippery soap, cold hand sanitizer, periodic blast of air from the oscillating fan, eyelids too heavy to keep open at naptime, vibration of an electric sharpener


Helpful hints:


--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.


Example 1:
Sarah let the teacher push her kindly out the door, then ran to peek through the window. The class sat in the reading corner, whispering, giggling, pulling on rug fibers to play with them. Molly, her little girl, shuffled to the circle of kids, the fan blowing her hair as she crossed its path. After the longest five seconds of Sarah's life, a little boy in the circle scooted over so Molly could sit next to him. He held out a baggy of cheese crackers. Molly took one and smiled at her new friend. Swallowing tears, Sarah pushed herself off the cinder block wall and went to work, her shoes making a lonely clacking sound on the tile.


Example 2:
Jacob jumped the bus steps two at a time, his pack bouncing on his back as he ran to the aftercare room. Someone called his name on the playground and he waved. Each step seemed to knock off a worry until, by the time he reached Mr. Crane's room, he was loose as a noodle. He dropped his pack to the floor and sighed. No telling what mood Dad would be in tonight, but he had three hours before he had to worry about that. Jacob high-fived Mr. Crane and started on his homework.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)
She wrinkled her nose and turned the fan to blow directly in her face. The four-year-old class after recess smelled like a high-school locker room.


Example 2: (Metaphor)
The snowflake project had clearly gotten out of hand. With all the glitter in the air, I could've been standing in a snow globe.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Isolation

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

Mountain top
High elevations
Desert
A lone tree on a hill
An island
Arctic tundra
An animal driven away from the herd/family group
Winter
Cold
Snow storms
A single bird flying without a flock (geese, for example)
Hibernation
A lone wolf
A falcon or eagle's nest at the top of a tree


In Society:

Mental conditions
Poverty
Homelessness
Disease
Contamination units in hospital
Victims of abuse
Victims of alcoholism or drug abuse
'Corner Kids' (kids in schools who are not accepted by others)
Solitary confinement (prison)
Padded room
Child sent to room
Deprivation chamber
Being underwater
Adrift on a raft
Alone on a boat
A teen with headphones in
Language barrier
Educational barrier
Hunting Cabin
Fishing shelter on a lake

Offshore drilling
Space Shuttle
Moon Walk
Being snowed in

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Isolation. Some are more powerful than others. A snow-shrouded cabin in the woods is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a lone wolf may not foreshadow isolation on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Closely related to Isolation: Alienation.


Author Memorabilia Up for Grabs!

It's Critter's big moment! He's officially on Ebay, hoping to raise $$ for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

Critter's been around the world visiting authors and writers, and has been signed by each host. What a perfect time of year to get a one-of-a-kind gift for the MG/YA reader/writer on your list! Do you know someone who is ga-ga for Author Beth Revis and her swoon-worthy Across the Universe debut? Or maybe they can't get enough of PJ Hoover's awesome Forgotten Worlds Trilogy. Tina Ferraro, author of How to Hook a Hottie, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, and The ABC’s of Kissing Boys showed him around California and in Texas he hung out with NY Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith.

And this is just a few of the AMAZING people who signed Critter! And let's not forget Critter is a piece of art himself, created by Ian Sands.

You can find the complete list of fantastic authors and writers on his ebay page, and he comes with a photo album showing the highlights of his journey. Christy has worked amazingly hard to put this all together, so I really hope we'll see a few more bids come in. It's a great piece of author memorabilia, for a great cause.

Remember all the money raised goes to St Jude's Research hospital. If you are unable to bid, please consider passing on the word!


Auction ends Dec 18!

Want High Stakes? Amp up the Stress!

In the real world, we avoid stress whenever possible but in writing, the opposite is true. Why? Because in the land of the Three Act Structure (TAS), STRESS = CONFLICT.

In the TAS, our main character has a need or desire which outside forces try to prevent, challenging him to overcome adversity to achieve his goal. Sounds like a nice, simple formula, doesn't it? However, without the critical element of STRESS, the storyline falls flat.

Little Johnny wants a cupcake. His mother says no. He waits until she turns her back and then takes one anyway.

Can you see it? No Stress = BORING. Johnny wants something, but he isn't stressed about it. The reader could care less whether he achieves his goal or not, because the stakes are nonexistent.

But let's look again, this time applying factors to cause stress:

Little Johnny has diabetes, and hypoglycemia is setting in. He doesn't want that cupcake, he freaking needs that cupcake. He's shaky, sweating, and his limbs aren't cooperating like they should, and he knows that if he doesn't get sugar STAT, it'll be lights out.

As readers, this situation has our blood boiling. Mom's obviously sadistic, not handing the sweet over. If it was up to us, we'd call Social Services and cheer as she's charged with neglect and failing to provide the necessities of life. Sadly, it isn't up to us, so all we can do is watch, helpless, and pray Johnny is strong enough to figure out what to do.

The application of stress has achieved something incredible: the reader now cares about Johnny. They are invested in his situation and riveted on the outcome. 

With the stress level maxed, the stage is set for action. The stakes are high. What will Johnny do to survive? How will he overcome his weakness and defeat this older, stronger mother-villain? How will he push aside the emotional connection of being her son to save his own life?

It doesn't matter what the situation is, STRESS is what pushes your main character to ACT. It can force them to go against their own nature or beliefs, to meet challenges, overcome obstacles and face danger. Stress creates tension, which leads to conflict, so don't be afraid to amp up the stress. The higher the stress, the more elevated the stakes are, laying the groundwork for a compelling story that will captivate your reader and make them feel invested in the outcome.

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Airport Check in

Sight

Sliding glass doors exiting drop off areas and the parade, long open area leading to multiple airline check ins, snake-like cordoned off queues filled with passengers carting luggage, e-ticket check in terminals, security personnel, airport staff, gates for different airlines (complete with company colors, uniformed staff, logos and TV sets displaying ads for each), signs from the ceiling directing passengers to airline check ins, baggage drop off, business class check ins, washrooms, information desks, baggage claim, meeting areas, car rentals, etc. monitors for flight times, departures/arrivals, tables with bag tags, pens, baggage forms, custom forms and instructions for carry on information, stands to self-size carry on luggage, wickets for check in (luggage scale, computer/monitor, ticket printouts, luggage tags and stickers, airline employee, pens, forms, passengers holding tickets/visas/passports, luggage deposit behind check in desk, janitorial employees with cleaning trolleys, vending machines, wall displays for maps/airport pamphlets/travel advisories/security information

Sounds

Automated doors opening and closing, names being called over the intercom for check in, flight arrivals, departures/delays, luggage wheels sliding across the floor in a pattern thud as they hit the spaces between tiles, parents telling their kids to keep up, ticket personnel calling for the next customer in line, zippers opening and closing, soft luggage (duffel, backpacks) thumping against the ground, shoes, boots & high heels clicking against the floor, the shuffling of feet, the ruffle of papers, e-tickets spitting out a dispenser, stamps on paperwork, quiet conversation, people talking into phones, the bing of a text or ring of a phone, people clearing their throat, coughing, shifting and sighing, making small talk to others in line or muttering to selves as they wait, the crackle of a security officer's radio

Smells

Coffee, hair products, cologne, perfume, mints/mouthwash, paper, metal, cleaning products, baked goods from a small snack/coffee business inside the departing terminal area, sweat, bad breath, plastic, gluey-stickyback smell from tape and luggage stickers

Tastes

Coffee, water, mints, gum, vending machine snacks, quick baked goods (bagels, muffins, wraps, cookies, etc easy to eat in line)

Touch

Tugging on a luggage handle, numb hand and arm from lugging a heavy suitcase or carry on, sitting on a suitcase during a particularly long wait in line, bumping into other people in line, accidentally running over a foot with luggage wheel, bumping into the queue strap keeping the line in place, shifting a shoulder bag from one shoulder to the other, juggling passports and paperwork, shuffling up a few steps every minute or so, rolling the neck and shoulders to ward off stiffness, pressing buttons on a e-check in ticket machine, craning the neck up to read directional signs, checking constantly to make sure all your bags/papers/purse/children are still with you, fighting with a luggage bag with a faulty wheel, attaching tags onto bags, checking to make sure zippers are closed, checking phone for messages, twisting wrist to see the time, filling out cards and forms while waiting in line, reading through itinerary, digging through purse of carry on, taking off extra layers and packing them away

Helpful hints:


--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

As I waited in the ridiculously long line to check my baggage at the understaffed America Airlines counter, I glanced over at the neighboring wickets of Korea Air. Passengers were flying through the twisty queue like prunes shooting through an eight-year-old's digestive system.

Example 2:

The glass doors whooshed shut behind me, cutting off the last breath of outside air. I cringed and clutched my ticket to my chest, staring at the the hundreds of people crossing in front of me, all with purpose, all knowing exactly where to go. I stepped forward, trembling, praying I'd find an airport employee who could help me decipher the ticket my husband had printed out for me and show me where to go.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

People inched forward with their baggage like cars on a slow moving train.


Example 2: (Metaphor)


With a grunt, I hefted Nana's suitcase forward as the line moved and then set it down with a thump. What the hell did she pack for her weekend away, a freaking bag of bricks?

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Freedom

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:
The open sea
A horse
The wind
A bird in flight
An open field
Wide open spaces
Insects flitting from one flower to the next
Squirrels jumping from tree to tree


In Society:
An open prison cell
An open lock
An open door
Empty shackles or handcuffs
A broken chain
A key
An animal being released into the wild
A flag
A country's Independence Day/birthday
Your first car
Graduation Day
The open road
Motorcycles
A person walking away
Human rights
Dancing
Nakedness
Knowledge
Vacations

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with freedom. Some are more powerful than others. Empty shackles are a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a bird in flight could represent numerous things and may not foreshadow freedom on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Setting Thesaurus Entry: Nursery

Sight
crib, changing table, diaper pail, dresser, clothes hamper, lamp, nightlight, rocking chair, baby swing, mobile, artwork, name plaque on the door, walls painted in soft colors (pink, blue, yellow, green), stuffed animals, picture frames, knick-knacks, CD player, baby monitor, baskets of supplies, diapers, wipes, baby powder, burp cloths, safety nail clippers, nasal aspirator, baby comb and brush, blankets/quilts, pacifiers, rattles, teething rings, board/cloth books, toy box, baby clothes (onesies, rompers, dresses, overalls), baby shoes, stray socks, light streaming through window, dim light shining from a lamp, baby lying/kneeling/standing in crib, crib toys strewn across the floor, drawers standing open and clothes pulled out, glowing stars on the ceiling, decorations hanging from the ceiling (butterflies, birds, airplanes, stars)

Sounds
the crank of a mobile, music from a mobile, classical music from a CD player, static from a white noise machine, crib mattress rustling, toys rattling/squeaking/banging, click of a diaper pail opening and closing, rip of diaper tabs being pulled, rustling diapers, snaps being fastened, click of lamp turning on/off, creak of rocking chair, baby cooing/babbling/crying, caregivers humming/singing, siblings playing, sounds from outside the window (rain pattering, wind blowing, trees swaying, crickets, birds singing, cars passing, neighbors talking), a/c and heat turning on and off, hum of humidifier, muffled voices of people in another room, drawers sliding open and shut, blinds zipping up and down, baby sucking thumb/slurping fingers, baby sleep sounds (snoring, wheezing, deep breathing)

Smells
baby powder, baby lotion, medicinal smell of diaper rash ointment, urine, poop, spit-up, sour milk, air fresheners, disinfectant

Tastes
formula, milk, dry air

Touch
fuzzy blankets, soft crib sheets, cuddly stuffed animals, damp/sweaty hair, silky hair, warm bodies, smooth skin, slobbery baby kisses, damp/wet/soaked diapers and clothes, plush changing pad cover, cold wipes, heated wipes from a wipes warmer machine, warm sun beaming through window, heat from a lamp or nightlight, squishy diapers, drool, viscous spit-up, dry feel of baby powder on your hands, greasy lotion, babies squirming in your arms, cold metal snaps, soft clothing, soothing slide of the rocking chair, gradual ceasing of motion as a baby falls asleep in your arms, warm plastic baby bottle

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:
The room was finally finished. Framed prints of cartoon dump trucks and tractors hung on the cornflower-blue walls. Soothing rain forest sounds whispered from the white noise machine. Margaret pushed the tiny choo-choo train on the dresser, rolling it back and forth. She breathed in the smells of fresh paint and new furniture and sighed, rubbing her bulging belly. Whenever you're ready, little man.

Example 2:
Sarah laid the baby in the playpen, pushing aside toys, diapers, and a dirty bottle to make room. Sinking to the rumpled bed, she rubbed her scratchy eyes. A pale but insistent smell of sour milk told her it was past time to do laundry. The ceiling fan rustled papers on her desk--that essay was due tomorrow, the one she hadn't even started. She scratched her head, pushed the limp hair out of her face. All she really wanted was a shower and a full night's sleep. A wail rose from the playpen. Sarah groaned and jerked the covers over her head.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)
The muffled footsteps, the soft music, the hushed voices: it felt more like a library than a nursery.

Example 2: (Metaphor)
She said it would be pink. This wasn't pink. This was a cotton candy explosion.

Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Borders/Barriers

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

Shoreline/coastline
Mountain range
Deserts
Crevasses
Cliffs
Rivers
Lakes
Oceans
Fire
Water
Swamp
Ice fields
Reefs
Waterfalls
Flooding
Lava flows
Avalanches
Forest line
Ridge line
Weather conditions
Temperature
Altitude
Ledges
Creeks
Ravines
Mud slide/rock slide

In Society:

Doors
Doorways/entrances
Fences
Gates
Guardrails
Walls
Counters
Buildings
Roadways
Property lines
Backyards
City parkland
Personal space
Recreational areas
Traffic jams
Railway crossings
Fenced enclosures
Caution tape
Road sign barriers
Baby gates
Curbs
Crosswalks
Parking space lines
Cattle guard
Privacy curtain
Shower curtain
Protective netting
Concrete barrier
Farm fences
Stalls
Strung rope or wire
Restricted airspace
Military/police presence
Castle/fortified walls
Portcullis
Drawbridge
Protected parks and designated areas
Border/Customs between countries
Great wall of China
Prison walls
Bouncers
Cover charges/fees
Permits/licences/paperwork
Police tape
Cubicles


*Barriers can also be economic, educational, physical health restraints, mental limitations (fears, phobias) and popularity (money, degrees, handicap, memberships, notoriety)

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Borders/Barriers. Some are more powerful than others. A concrete barrier wall is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the presence of a baby gate in a home might not foreshadow a border/barrier on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

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