Thursday, December 25, 2008

What Literature Can Do

Merry Christmas, everyone!

At this time of year, many people enjoy reading Christmas stories and that has become a part of their family traditions. Of course, Christmas stories from the Bible are especially important to share because they tell us why we have Christmas in the first place. The story from Luke 2 combined with John 3:16 can share a powerful message, along with other favorite scriptures you may have.

One loved book is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Years ago, I grew tired of all the take-offs of this story that were done on various television series. It helps that I don't watch much TV these days!! But my interest was revived when I read the original book. I've also collected a few different versions of movies based on the book. A favorite is the 1951 movie starring Alastair Sim, but there are others.

This morning I found an article at National Review Online that talks about the contribution Charles Dickens' book made to the way we celebrate Christmas. It's called "A Dickensian Christmas" by Rich Lowry. I thought you might enjoy reading it this Christmas season, and thinking about the influence a good book can have on our lives.

Again, Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Books as Gifts

Books make wonderful gifts--for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, any occasion. For some help with giving books, see this Michael Dirda column at the Washington Post. "Michael Dirda on the 10 Commandments of Book Giving"

You know your family and friends and what they would probably like, so think about giving some books this year!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

What Christmas books do you enjoy most this time of year? I love to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have linked to one place it can be found on the internet, at Page by Page Books.

Being something of an Anglophile, I enjoy the book for its detailed descriptions of daily life at Christmas time. Overall, though, the book's pleasure comes from watching a man grow from selfishness to generosity. An overarching theme of change can raise a book from an ordinary level of entertainment to a memorable story that can inspire those who read it. This is something to strive for in our own writing.

Christmas time provides an inspiring message all its own and leads many people to change and improvement. Reading Luke 2 in the Bible's New Testament is one of my favorite things to do. Going to the source for the Christmas story provides the ultimate inspiration.

What are your favorites in Christmas reading?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From the Archives: "Sensible" Writing

When writing the description of a scene, don't just tell what it looks like. Descriptions of things that can be seen are important to the reader--it helps their imagination to picture what you are describing. Don't stop there, though.

What sounds would you hear in that place and time? Would there be traffic noise, people chatting, thunder booming, dishes clattering? How about birds singing or leaves crunching as someone walks over them?

Then there are smells. Do you smell food cooking? Are you describing a gas station and is the smell of gas wafting on the air? In a garden, can you smell flowers or mulch or fresh cut grass?

Is there tasting involved? Is a character eating a meal or trying a new food? Is there something that tastes sweet, sour, salty, or bitter? Is there an awful smell that leaves an acrid taste in your mouth?

How about touching? Does something feel smooth, rough, wet, dry, hot, cold? Is there a cat with soft fur or a dog with wiry hair?

Those kinds of descriptions can add so much to your scenes. It can give a sense of realism, a sense of "you are there". See what you can do by adding just a little extra--don't overdo it, of course. You wouldn't want to cram in all five senses in every scene, but a little something besides just what can be seen might make all the difference in how right your descriptions feel.