Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pass-Along Descriptions: Suprise

Posted by Jonene Ficklin

I am in a writer’s group with some wonderfully talented writers, one of which is Leisha Maw. We meet once a week to critique each other’s work.

Now, when I write, I tend to use some words over and over, not even knowing it. They are my Jonene-isms. I often catch them when I proof-read, but just as often, I don’t. Thank heavens for my awesome critique partners. They know me and my ‘isms’ and can spot them quicker than a freeway cop outside the Indy 500.

And then there are my physical descriptions for an emotional response. I don’t even mean to, but say, when someone is surprised, my first description is always the same one: pounding heart and sweating palms. I have to keep changing it up, and am always looking for another, better way to explain it.

So, during our writer’s group, we came up with the idea to turn this into a pass-along-author-help-dictionary of physical descriptions.

Do you want to play?

Here’s how it goes. Every once in a while, Leisha and I (and anyone else is welcome to do the same) will put out an emotion, or situation. What we’d like from you are fresh physical and mental descriptions – the more descriptions from more people, the better. These descriptions are open to any and all to take, steal, copy and otherwise overuse in their own stories.

So, if you’re okay with that, let’s get started. Today, I’d like to start with your description of SURPRISE.


  1. First off, you are too kind. Second, surprise: a quick intake of breath, dilated eyes, flared nostrils, holding breath, stiffened fingers/stomach muscles/lips/you name it, a explative, blinking, raised eyebrow, salivation or dry mouth, numbness of extremities brought on my hyperventilation, screaming, hitting someone(it all depends on what kind of surprise we're talking about), and hmmmm jumping, flinching, shocked silence. And that's all I have for now.

    Great post btw. :)

  2. Oh, this is great! I love it.

    A bad surprise feels like a bucket of ice water dumped on your head.

    Heart rocketing (I like that one for a happy surprise because it combines speed, power, and an upward motion)

    Surprises wind up a spring inside me. There's a breathless moment before I react, when all I know is that something unexpected happened. It takes that blink of an eye to figure out if I should scream for joy or wail in agony.

  3. Oo, Leisha and Rebecca I'm dizzy with glee from all these lovely new descriptions! Thanks for playing and starting a new writer's dictionary!

  4. Surprise is that instant of slow realization right before you roll into a full-blown panic.

  5. You can't knock the old stand-bys, though. A few minutes ago I sliced the end of my thumb off with a paper slicer, and boy was I surprised. What did I do? My eyes went wide. I yelled. I jerked my injured hand away from the blade. I felt really stupid. And irritated. Nothing fancy. It works.

  6. Anonymous, I love that! Thank you!

    Rebecca, fiction is much more comfortable than real life - I'm cringing for you right now! I sure hope you're not bleeding too badly and you get the brownie button award for taking the time to describe your reaction!!

  7. Yes, it is amazing how hard we writers have to work to make the readers uncomfortable. If a tiny fraction of the bad things that happen to my characters were to happen to me, I would want to crumple up in a little ball and sob my eyes out.

  8. Thank heaven's we're in control! It makes the agony so much more enjoyable - and hopefully the readers enjoy it as much as we do.


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