Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: How To Spice Up Your Writing

"Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour."
~William Cowper

Welcome to the latest edition of Writers' Wednesday!

Special treat today: a fellow writer, Kenn Kasica, has delivered a great piece on how to add spicy details to your work. Please make sure to leave a comment for'll be entered into a drawing to win a $5 Amazon Gift Certificate if you do!


Think of your latest writing project as a large pot of chili cooking on a stove.

It is your latest novel, your simple poem, your unfinished song. It may be your love letter, short story or article you hope to send to Allie’s fantastic blog. It is in fact, the chili. The tomatoes are the plot. The beef is its characters. The peppers are its location. The onions are the timeline.

So what happens when your writing needs a certain twist? Welcome to spice cabinet 101.

All words boil in the mind like the chili on a hot stove. Like the chili, our writing needs spice. You make a better chili when you dare to add the chili powder, the jalapeƱo, and the Caribbean pepper for those like me who like it a few degrees north of insane.

Our stories have spices as well. They are certain words that heighten a description of a character, a place or just about anything. As important, the spices hook the reader. Like the spices in a cooking pot of chili, it keeps the hungry, hanging around. As you write, keep these words in mind.

A few are states, dates, colors, and vehicles:

States. We can find this spice in the smallest of terms. Louisiana Lightning, New York minute, Texas tea is but a few examples. I think state names grab reader’s attention. I have a part in a story I wrote where a man is driving a car and sipping whiskey. I do not refer it as whiskey. I wrote it as, “Brody kept his eyes on the rear view while his lips took in another hit from his bottle of Mississippi sting sauce.”

Another story I wrote was about horse racing. This gets interesting, naming horses. I am going to call my winning stallion “Rhode Island Blinking.” Blinking as in, waving bye bye.

Dates. Don’t be afraid to go back in time. Don’t fear the future. You have a car in your story, give it mileage. Give it a year. If there is a significant event in your story, give it a date. Say it is a blizzard. Give the blizzard potency, give it the year it wrecked havoc. Write the blizzard as the great blizzard of 48, or 78, or last years date. The reader most likely will note the storm from the start as a mother of a catastrophe.

Colors. The list is endless. Red October, Blue Hawaii, Yellow Beard, Black rain, White line fever. I like to use a color and attach it to another word. I have a story where one of the characters has a car. Could it be a monza? Hell no. He drove around town in a sweet 73 purple Barracuda. The attachment is its nick name. “The purple popsicle”. It is okay to nick name cars. We in fact, control the pen. Colors are not flavors, they are spices.

A few quick examples. A mystery. The sight of bright blue gun smoke rising through the brighter orange sun light. Horror. Blood, black cherry red was dried and baked on the hood of a 71 cotton white Fleetwood rag top from unforgiving Arizona sun. See what I am getting at? Spices.

This leads me to transportation devices. Again, cars. If you have a car in your writing, give it a life of its own. No, not Christine. How good would Bullet be if McQueen raced around in a Studebaker? Then again, if your character is a nerd, throw him in a muffler-less Astro Van. How about trains? The old blues giants had it all down. They wrote daring to mix all the spices.

“We just blue hobos, me and Kansas Jack.” “We been hitchin the Santa Fe since sixty two out to get our red hens back.

My point to all this is, add spices. I write with an edge hot as our chili. I think you write better with a cold cup of jo than nursing a warm chocolate mocha latte with a straw. It is just my understanding.

Chuck Berry, I think, did it best: “A souped up cherry red 53.” You know it is a car but you really don’t care what type of car it is. It is bad ass. You know it.

Characters and places make or break the best writing. Adding spice in the form of states, dates, colors, and vehicles can add the flare. Write with fluff, write for Dixie Cup. Write with spice, and the world will be waiting for you.

Chili is done. Time to eat!


Rachelle said...

Wow, that's really interesting! I never thought of that before. Now, that you mentioned it, I think I'll try your suggestion. Thanks!

jonjo said...

Your invitation to share your methods of spicing up words is fascinating, and in places, surprising.
You've given me lots to think about. :-) Thank you.

Jess said...

Wow, that's very interesting! Thanks!

Apryl said...

Thank you for sharing this!


Karen said...

Terrific post, with lots of ideas to get to work on! Thanks!

Fred Charles said...

This post makes me want to write and eat at the same time ;)

Great post!

Judy said...

I've not thought about spicing up words in quite this way. Thanks. I'll take a look at my work and see what I can do.

Leif D. said...

makes a lot of sense! Thanks for the info!

Dylan said...

This is quite a nice approach to writing but I think writers should also limit the use of this style because too much of it looks over-done like a clothing dyed to death to match! Just my .02

sherlyn said...

Great idea Kenn! Have you done this to your novels, too? I wanna read...

Kimberlee said...

Great! If you can't spruce it up, spice it up!

Kim (",)

g.i. george said...

Nice one Kenn! I knew you can spice up your writing with memorable characters, imagery and dialogue or by using verbs with more punch but I didn't know about this. Are you offering a free course? (wink)

Cez said...

So, it'd be like poetry in prose? LOL

Loney said...

Great idea! But won't that distract the reader? How do you know you've used enough "spice" in your writing?

Diane said...

Nice! Now, my muse has awaken...

Marianne S. said...

Hey Kenn. Great ideas. Love the imagery. Keep it coming. Allie S. loved it, too!