Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vacation in Costa Rica: So what's it have to do with writing?

Costa Rica es muy bonito! Yes, I just got back from 2 weeks in the verde country. What a bucket list experience. We saw snakes, bats, bugs big as mice, iguanas, salamanders, poison dart frogs, fish, sloths, dolphins, whales, and three different kinds of monkey. 

The food was amazing. The people were so helpful and in love with their country. Ahhhh, I didn't want to come home. 

But now that I am back, I am looking through 972 photos I took, and there are some great shots. (some horrible ones too, which I am promptly deleting) And I'll share a few of the good ones with you.

These photos got me thinking about descriptions in writing. Some authors weigh down their manuscripts with tons of description. The books that come to mind are Twilight. The first two books balanced description and dialogue, action, and inner thoughts. But the next book was way too heavy on description. I mean, how many times do you have to explain to me what a tree looks like? 

Looking at my vacation photos I thought up an exercise for my writing. Take one photo and describe it to someone who may never see something like it. Be it a snake, whale, flower or landscape shot, how would I describe it? But not only that, how would I do it without boring the heck out of the person I'm describing it to? 

Exercise: Grab a photo you have on your computer and describe it through the eyes of your main character. Then describe it through the eyes of your antagonist. Then try it through the eyes of a minor character. How do they differ? 

Another point I wanted to make about vacations and writing has to do with your senses. I'm fresh from this trip, so I can still taste the fish, smell the flowers, and feel the warmth of the ocean, and grittiness of the dark sand. 

Exercise: Use a vacation photo. Try to remember with your senses. How did the town, or city, or beach seem? Was it crowed, fast paced, and hard on your eyes? Or was it quiet, slow moving, and relaxing to watch? What did the local food taste like? Look like? Smell like? What about touch? Do you remember the feel of the grass on your legs? The sand between your toes? The mosquito bites on your legs? 

Take a few moments to remember as much as you can using your senses. And then as above, describe them through your character's eyes, nose, ears, tongue, fingers, toes. Did a breeze tickle your character's hair? Or did she sweat the minute she stepped outside the air conditioning?

Note: You don't actually have to leave your home town to get a great "vacation" photo. Take your camera and look through it as if you are a visitor. What would a tourist be attracted to? How would he/she see your town? Your school? Your local coffee shop? 


I have in my office a small box with note cards. I take notes on the cards about people I meet, places I go, and stories I've been told. It's a great place to find an interesting quirk for a new character, or a setting to place my characters in, or strange stories to add some flare to my writing. 

I am going to add a vacation slot, where I can take notes on the most interesting things I saw, tasted, smelled, and did. 

I'd love to hear writing suggestions from you too. 

Good luck!
And write~on

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