How to Paint Tangerine Dream and Marmalade Sky Word Pictures

by Joe Bunting | 125 comments

This guest post is by Elise Abram. Elise is a published author, English teacher, and former archaeologist. You can follow her blog, My Own Little Storybrooke, about the writing process and pop culture's ties to literature. Elise is the author of Phase Shift, and is currently finishing her second novel, The Revenant.

A few years ago I taught at a high school with a strong Arts program. At the end of the school year, the fruits of students’ labour were put up for sale in a silent auction. I remember walking through the room, mouth agape and eyes bulging in awe of the talent I saw.

Later in the staff room a colleague and I, both of us English teachers, both aspiring authors, were fawning over the accomplishments of our students and I remember saying, “I wish I had talent like that.” My colleague assured me that I did. When I protested that I couldn’t even draw a wiggly line, she said to me, “You’re an artist; you paint word pictures.”

It was a moment of epiphany, one that’s stayed with me to this day.

tangerine dreams

Photo by Paul Bica

Writing Lessons from The Beatles

As writers, we draw worlds and paint scenes with our words. It is our job to carefully select the exact words that help our readers see, hear and feel what our characters see, hear and feel as our stories unfold.

I picked the first line of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” as the title of this post because it demonstrates the creativity writers must employ during the writing process. Lennon and McCartney could have said “Picture yourself in a boat on a river in autumn at sunset,” but they didn’t.

Instead, they imagined orange leaves hanging from the trees, curling over and back on themselves as they dry in the sun until they look like tangerines ripe for the picking, and a sunset with shades of yellow and orange, sky cloudy and viscous as marmalade.

The words paint a peaceful scene, what with the calmness of the river, the sweetness of the marmalade and the tangerines, juicy and full of promise. The song is not known for its run-of-the-mill lyrics, but for the words behind the iconic imagery it evokes

How to Paint Word Pictures

The next time you describe a person, place or thing, use words as your brushes.

Be conscious of when to paint in broad strokes (as in “a boat on a river”) and when to switch to a thinner brush (think “tangerine dreams” and “marmalade skies”). Rather than use commonplace colors, think in terms of paint colour palates (How many shades of white paint are available at your local hardware store?).

Appeal to the senses. Make your reader smell, see, hear, feel and taste what you imagine.

Do you try to paint word pictures when you write?


Place yourself in a scene. You could be on the riverboat with Lennon and McCartney, in a place that evokes the essence of your own inner peace, or right where you’re sitting as you read this post.

Now paint a word picture. Feel free to be true to life or embellish. Appeal to as many senses as you can. What do you smell, see, hear, feel, or taste? Your goal is to paint a picture with your words vivid enough for your reader to imagine sitting right next to you in the scene.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you're time is up, post your scene in the comments so we can travel down the river with you.

Remember: you are the artist, and your words, your paint and brushes.

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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  1. catmorrell

    Gun metal grey, the color of the sky, the street and the car parked in front of the ball field waiting. The relentless drizzle limits his view as he slowly takes another drag on the cigarette. He blows a smokey cloud from the window and lets his arm drape loosely over the outside of the door. Red ashes drip from the bad habit hanging off his fingertips, sizzling as droplets put out the flame. He notices the extinguished butt and gives it a flip to join the million other discarded vices littering the gravel parking lot.


    This was happening outside my window. It is only 5 minutes long. Of course I rarely write in 2nd person present tense, so it it was a stretch.

    • Karl Tobar

      “Red ashes drip from the bad habit hanging off his fingertips”
      That is a great line, almost lyrical. Good job.
      Not to be “that guy,” but I believe this is 3rd person, not 2nd

    • catmorrell

      Thanks. You are right though. “You” is 2nd person. “He, she, they” are 3rd person. Well it has been a lot of years since I was in school. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. 😉 I usually write third person past tense. Guess, I will have to work on the 2nd person.

    • Margaret Terry

      I really like “the drizzle limits his view” – I had an immediate picture of that on a windshield…also “his arm drape loosely”, a great descriptor…drape was a great word choice there….

    • catmorrell

      Thank you. I sent this to my writing group too and my instructor suggested losing “loosely”. Love all the feedback.

    • Audrey Chin

      Mmmmm, the contrast of “red ashes drip from the bad habit hanging off his fingertips, sizzling as droplets put out the flame” is a small powerful moment. Then, you’ve the gun metal grey of the sky. I also like the reference to the “other discarded vices littering the gravel parking lot”. It reminds me of the other things left in city parking lots, needles, pieces of rubbers etc….
      Its a “big” world you’ve described in just one paragraph catmorrell.

    • catmorrell

      Thank you for the encouragement and kind words.

    • Elise Abram

      I like the ashes dripping from the bad habit and discarded vices. So much more descriptive than cigarettes and butts.

    • catmorrell

      Thank you. This was a great assignment.

    • Elise Abram

      Thank you–for your kind words and for your participation. Best wishes!

    • Margherita Crystal Lotus

      Enjoyed the phrase “Red ashes drip from the bad habit…” it really illustrate the mode of this scene.

    • catmorrell

      Thank you. This has been my favorite exercise.

  2. Wanda Kiernan

    Cherry blossoms have dropped in droves to the ground, a light pink mound of spring snow wrapped around the roots of the tree. I couldn’t resist bending down and picking up a handful, pretending to make a snowball out of the
    clump of thick pink flowers. The petals felt cool against my warm skin. I could
    feel a few dewy drops make their way between my fingers as if the blossom ball
    was melting. A light spring wind lifted a sweet pungent scent from the flakey petals, a mix of honey and soil after the rain. The petals shivered, and some flew
    out gliding down to the ground. I played with the snowball, shifting the weight of the soft petals between my cupped hands, wanting to hold them forever.
    But when a stronger breeze brushed my cheek I knew it was time to let them
    go. I lifted my hands and threw the petals into the breeze. They spiraled
    around me for a brief moment, and then like snowflakes, landed lightly on the

    • Margie Deeb

      Beautiful! I, too, have done this with cherry blossoms – they are magic. Your writing conveys that magic!

    • Emma Marie

      Thank you for this, Wanda! I love it, especially the scent of honey and soil after the rain.

    • Karl Tobar

      My favorite line is “A light spring wind lifted a sweet pungent scent. . .” I didn’t know you could mix sweet and pungent but I could imagine the smell very clearly when you described it. This piece is, as Margie said, magic

    • catmorrell

      I like your last sentence. It conveys the magic.

    • Margaret Terry

      I have wanted to make a blossom ball many times and never made the time to do it – thank you for your practice because now I feel like I have! Love this : “The petals shivered, and some flew
      out gliding down to the ground.”

    • Audrey Chin

      Wanda, I can smell the “mix of honey and soil after the rain.” Lovely.

    • Elise Abram

      I like the extended metaphor at the start, comparing the flowers to snow. Using two very different images and combining the seasons works beautifully in this context.

    • Winnie

      All the sense are there: sight, smell, taste, texture. The combination works.

    • Margherita Crystal Lotus

      This is a glance of elegance and the luscious feeling of: ‘dropped in droves to the ground, a light pink mound of spring snow wrapped around the roots’ makes me want to sit there among the cherry blossoms with a small glass of refined white wine. Thanks Wanda….

  3. R.w. Foster

    This was a tough one for me. Here’s my attempt:

    “We’re are we going, Carter?” Adora asked.

    “Dunskillen Town. Anyone know the way to it?”

    “Aye. It be a ways away. Why do ye want to go there?”

    “Because that was where we ended up when we were separated.” I scratched my belly.

    “Carter,” Adora said, “why do you keep scratching your belly?”

    “It itches.” The sarcasm was thick enough to cut glass.

    She flipped up my shirt and spotted the pink moss which I used to patch my wound two nights ago. She audibly gasped. Her jaw was agape, eyes wide and bulging. Her flesh, pale and clammy to my touch. I gently shook her arm.

    “Lady Orwen. What is wrong?”

    “Carter, why do you have that moss on you?”

    “I placed it there to staunch my bleeding. Why?”

    “That is Tian’arri’i moss!” Lady Orwen said. Keeper Dearbhaile gasped, and she shook free of me. I raised my eyebrows. “That must be why I can’t heal your hand! It corrupts and warps healing magic.”

    “The moss grows in the Abyss, Carter. It be vile as a demon,” Keeper Dearbhaile said. “An’ worse, it will turn ye tae one.”

    “Well, fuck.” I bent and picked up the broken sword. I spun it so the jagged end was pointed at my gut.

    Adora grabbed me. “What are you thinking, Carter?”

    “That I would cut it out and take care of the problem. What do you think?”

    “Carter, Rishka, this nae be the time for sarcasm.” I looked at my beloved. “Lady Owen simply means ye cannae cut it out.”

    I blew out a breath. “Damn it. I should have known.”

    “Maybe th’ Wizard Cora might have some answers. Or ideas.”

    “Good point.”

    “We’ve got a long journey ahead of us.” Lady Orwen rolled her shoulders. “Tonight will be miserable. I’m already stiff, and we have long miles to trek.”

    “Is anyone ever going to introduce us all, properly?” Weijia asked.

    I felt my cheeks heat. I’d forgotten that I was the only one who knew everyone. “Right.” I gestured to my Rishka. “Lady Orwen, Weijia, this is Keeper Dearbhaile.” I then introduced the other women as I scratched my belly.

    Dearbhaile swatted my hand. “That encourages the Tian’arri’i to grow.”

    “Explains why it itches so much.” I picked up Durrgedenn’s sword and shield. “Keeper Dearbhaile, how did you get here?”

    “A teleportation spell.”

    “That is impressive,” Weijia said. “They are hard to master.”

    “Why would you chance such a dangerous spell, Rishka?”

    “It was nae that dangerous.”

    “You had no idea where I was, nor what the conditions were.” Weijia gaped at me. Lady Orwen nodded, while a flush crept up Dearbhaile’s neck. She stared at the ground and traced a semi-circle through the dirt with her toe. I narrowed my eyes. “Wait a minute. You had something of mine, didn’t you?”

    “Aye.” Her voice was so soft, I had to move closer to hear. “I had a lock o’ yer hair.”

    “A lock of my hair.” She nodded. “Why did you have a lock of my hair? And when did you take it?”

    “I wanted somethin’ of yers tae hold.”

    “Uh-huh. And when did you take it?”

    “Our first night alone together by the river near Dunskillen Town.”

    I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I glanced at Adora and Weijia. The Warpriest shrugged, and the troll-blooded half-dragon watched. I turned back to Keeper Dearbhaile. I saw a droplet of water wet the ground at her feet. ‘Why is she crying? Does she think I’m mad at her?’ I pulled my love into my arms and held her. I ran my hand along her spine while whispering soothing sounds.

    She gripped my deerskin shirt in both fists and started to sob. “Hey now,” I said. “There, there. Everything is alright. I’ll make certain of it.” Her shoulders hitched,
    and I caught a familiar sound. ‘Did she just,’ my shirt got a bit damp, ‘blow her nose on me? Ugh!’ I shuddered. Her head went left to right against my chest. ‘Oh dear god. Can it get any worse?’

    She tilted her head up. Her eyes were red, her cheeks blotchy. There was a small runner of mucus trailing from her nose to my chest. My stomach lazily turned over. ‘Who’d have thought? Confronted by my beloved bloody, beaten and unconscious doesn’t rattle me, yet her snot on my shirt, and I’m ready to toss my cookies. Nice.’

    I desperately pushed my mind away from the thought of mucus. “Did you just blow your nose on my shirt?”
    ‘What the fuck is wrong with me?’ I thought.

    Dearbhaile gave a watery giggle. “Aye. I be sorry, Carter.”

    I cupped her cheeks and brushed her tears away with my thumbs. “There is no need to cry, Rishka. You’ve done nothing wrong.” I kissed her forehead, pulled off my shirt and allowed her to clean away the mucus. “Could we use the spell to return to Dunskillen?”

    “Nae. It be single use only. To get me from there tae you.”

    I sighed. “Oh course. Wouldn’t want things to be too easy, would we?” I said under my breath.

    “I did nae catch that, Rishka.”

    “It’s unimportant, Beloved.” I looked to the others. “Let’s get moving, eh?”

    I turned to the woods, and tried to ignore the way Weijia was looking at my bare

    • Karl Tobar

      I did notice this is a bit more descriptive than some of your other work. It adds a lot to it, really it does. Good work today RW

    • R.w. Foster

      Now I’m thinking I should go back, and add more to the previous passages. (shrug) “To the Re-write Cave!”

    • catmorrell

      The pink itchy moss is very visual for me. Now I picture it latching onto his skin and burrowing.

    • R.w. Foster

      Good. I’m going with a “Chekov’s gun” aspect here. I hope the pay off equals what I visualize. I hope this means you liked it. 😉

    • catmorrell

      yes, I am a big scifi/fantasy fan.

    • John Fisher

      This has a humor running through it that could be addictive. For some reason I thought Carter’s reaction when he says, “Well, f**k.” and picks up the broken sword was so funny, I just laughed and laughed. And it is very descriptive. Good stuff!

    • R.w. Foster

      I’m glad you liked it, John. A laugh out loud moment was more than I was hoping for. I was thinking maybe just a light chuckle, or two, would be all I got. Thanks.

    • Elise Abram

      I like the fantasy element and the accented speech which helps the reader hear your dialogue. The nose blowing imagery is very vivid which adds a lightheartedness to the piece.

    • R.w. Foster

      Good. I’m glad that mad it through. I went for humor here to break some of the tension I’d built prior and to “cleanse the palate,” so-to-speak, for the next part.

    • Winnie

      Descriptive passages blend in easily with the action. That, and the dialogue interspersed with humor, makes the piece move along.

    • R.w. Foster

      Very cool. Would you be willing to share your further thoughts on this?

    • Margherita Crystal Lotus

      Your words .. moved me the pain and.. “I placed it there to staunch my bleeding” put me in that mood of adventure.

    • R.w. Foster

      So…you liked it? (hopeful smile)

    • R.w. Foster

      Epic. That is good to “hear”.

  4. Elise White

    She rode, moving down the twisted path, an ever winding line of gray, bordered on either side by the dancing spring foliage. She felt the wind everywhere, pushing against her forward movement. Her muscles pushed against the invisible forces that wanted to hold them still. Her skin sparkled as the shining early evening sun shone upon her. Her heart let out a sigh of relief when her trek brought her to the stillness and coolness offered by tall shady trees, blocking out the ever-burning sun. And how refreshing it was to let cool water flow down her throat, helping her to push onward with renewed energy.

    As she reached the last hill before home, her eyes were focused and sharp, like lasers. Her hands gripped the handlebars of her bike, veins protruding, and her weary feet dug into the spinning pedals. She crouched down on the bike, like a pouncing cheetah, and when she surfaced over the crest of the hill, it was victory. Her heart raced with a mixture of accomplishment and exhiliration.

    She reached the doorway to her apartment building, smiling, knowing now she was almost there, home, where a shower, water, and food awaited her. Hauling the bike on her slight shoulder, up the seemingly endless 3 flights of stairs, her legs were stiff and tight like stretched rubber bands. More glistening sweat oozed from her pores. Then she reached her door. She let the bike rest on the ground as she turned the key. She’d made it and she knew that with this ride, as with every other previous ride, she’d returned home a little stronger.

    • catmorrell

      “Her legs were stiff and tight like stretched rubber bands” I can even feel that.

    • John Fisher

      I like the “surfac[ing] over the crest of the hill.”

    • Margaret Terry

      great action and descriptive language here – I was rooting for her the whole way… Loved the kegs/rubber band description – I know the feeling…

    • Elise Abram

      Like that it’s her heart letting out the sigh of relief. The feeling of cool water trickling down your throat is great sensory imagery.

    • Margherita Crystal Lotus

      Pouncing cheetah… I can feel it the spirit of chasing whatever it is.. I felt there on bike….mmm

  5. Karl Tobar

    The sky acted funny all day. Puffs of discolored cotton rolled overhead and darkened. They slid above us first white at an alarming speed, as if trying to escape the sun who was cooking them—burning them. More kept coming, racing across the sky like a heard of burnt sheep. By noon the sheep blotted out the sky and a blanket of smoky charcoal smothered our farm.

    A distant whisper, a faint whistle of moving air accompanied the clouds, tickling our ears at first and brushing our hair aside like a lover trying to get a better look into another’s eyes before stealing a kiss. By noon, as we worked in the fields, the whisper arose with force to a violent whooshing howl. Our hair whipped about, our armies of corn soldiers leaned to the side as if ducking for cover. Our gentle lover who had caressed our hair had been replaced with ghost wolves that surrounded our farm and screamed songs of deadly winds.

    “To the shelter!” Daylight cast aside we made our way through the blackness, navigating on pure instinct as the impending storm plotted overhead. It was hard to see, hard to breath—the hot air too thick and heavy to fit in my nose like being wrapped in hot water.

    In flashes of neon white the sky lit up ONE TWO THREE times and jagged skeletons bolted across the charcoal pointing with their radiant fingers at a swirling mass of frightful doom.

    • Emma Marie

      I can picture it so clearly. I really liked ‘the sheep blotted out the sky’ and ‘armies of corn soldiers…’. Excellent.

    • catmorrell

      “jagged skeletons….swirling mass of frightful doom” Intense.

    • Paul Owen

      Discolored cotton, ghost wolves, plotting storms, this is awesome, Karl!

    • Karl Tobar

      Thank you, sir

    • John Fisher

      You had me from “The sky acted funny all day.” A sense of slowly impending violence. I got pictures of the Dust Bowl in my head but a severe thunderstorm (I think?) is implied. I wonder if those two ever occurred at the same time. “puffs of discolored cotton, hair whipped about, armies of corn soldiers leaned to the side . . . ” Great painting!

    • Karl Tobar

      It was a tornado. I was hoping to get to describe the twister but sometimes duty calls and you have to stop typing. I see now that a “blanket of smoky charcoal smothering the farm” could make someone think of dust, though. I was actually still describing the clouds. Thanks for your input and making think twice!

    • Margaret Terry

      I’m with John – that first line made me edgy…nice work.

    • Audrey Chin

      Such a great description of the oncoming storm. I love the big metaphor, the herd of sky sheep being chased by the screaming wolves.
      Just one suggestion.. I’d leave out the “gentle lover who’d caressed our hair” to make the metaphor tighter.
      The only piece of dialogue you put in, “To the shelter” introduced the tiny human element well. Who after all are they to stand up to those massive forces of nature you set up the scene with?

    • Elise Abram

      Hi, Karl. The ghost wolves screaming songs of deadly winds is vivid imagery. A great description of the impending storm.

  6. Emma Marie

    This was a hard practice for me. I have trouble with descriptions sometimes, but here goes…
    “This is amazing, Annie! I’ve never seen anything like it! Oh wow…” Chuck spun around in circles, arms slightly outstretched as if he were about to fly away into the cotton candy sky. Beautiful, pure elation lit up his young face.
    Annie also spun around, the harsh wind whipping her hair into her mouth across her eyes.
    She could smell the trees even from so high. The sweet smell of pine needles filled her soul.
    The wind threatened to blow them down the hill, but they planted their feet in the tawny earth and stood their ground.
    “Annie, I’ve never been so happy before!” Chuck shouted over the roar.
    Those words were to much. Tears filled her eyes.
    “I’m so glad, Chucky. I’m so glad you’re happy,” She turned back to the mountains, so far away.
    They still had a long way to go, but neither of them wanted to leave their high perch.
    Annie bent down and scooped a handful of the dust. She gripped it tight and some of it oozed out of the cracks between her fingers to be lost in the wind.
    Tears of sorrow and tears of joy made tracks in the dirt on face.
    She held the earth to her nose and inhaled deeply. She stirred it with a careful finger.
    Her heart was being healed.
    “I’m home, Chuck,” She whispered, but the wind snatched the words away before they reached his ears.
    “I’m home.” Her tears fell and left splotches on the bare earth.

    • catmorrell

      A mix of loss and joy here. Thought “oozed out of the cracks between her fingers to be lost in the wind” said it all.

    • Karl Tobar

      Cotton candy sky is an excellent description. Your descriptions of the wind were good, too, I could really picture them up there trying to hear each other.

    • John Fisher

      I think this is excellent on both literal and symbolic levels. ” . . . the harsh wind whipping her hair into her mouth across her eyes” is great.

    • Elise Abram

      Great sensory information here. I especially like the image of a cotton candy sky.

    • Contrary Bear

      This was really, really great. The amount of imagery and feeling wound up into this is really amazing! For some reason the line ‘they planted their feet in the tawny earth’ really resonated with me

  7. Margaret Terry

    I went immediately to Wisconsin where I used to own a small lake cabin – I haven’t been there in 10 years, but the pictures of that lake are etched in heart…

    The quarter mile sandy lane curled through a dense forest on fire with fall colors. Sun pouring over the leaves illuminated more shades of yellow and orange than Van Gough could have imagined. Through the trees, the lake winked at me each time the light danced across its surface. I stopped the car, rolled my window down and breathed in the earthy smell of fallen leaves, crisp air and sweet lake water. At the end of that dirt road was a 1930’s cabin perched on Rooney Lake waiting for me to bring it back to life. That night I had a front row seat to the sun’s finale when its brilliance slipped behind the lofty pines across the lake. It was the most perfect sunset I had ever seen.

    • catmorrell

      Shoot, you had me at Wisconsin Lake Cabin in your intro. I can feel bumping over the dirt road and smelling pines as the sun sets. Great visuals.

    • Margaret Terry

      thanks – made me ache for it and all the lazy summers with my sons, now grown….

    • Karl Tobar

      This gives me such a clear picture of the woods you were describing. The forest on fire with color, sunlight dancing on the lake, the crisp air. I grew up in the Midwest and this brought memories of those maple trees that I don’t see here in Southern California. What a great image you described!

    • nancy

      I think I’ve been to this place in Michigan! Good description. Don’t think you need the last line. I already get it.

    • Margaret Terry

      thx, Nancy – I debated that last line over and over, took it out and put it back in, so funny what we need/want to say and how the reader reads it. Good call…

    • Paul Owen

      Beautiful description, Margaret. I love how the lake winked at you. The forest on fire with color is a nice turn of phrase, too!

    • John Fisher

      ” . . . the earthy smell of fallen leaves, crisp air and sweet lake water.” I can smell all those good things right along with you.

    • The Striped Sweater

      I love that you included the smell. Smell is hard to bring in, but for me, it’s the most evocative sense.

    • Margaret Terry

      thx – fall leaves and sweet lake water are hard to forget!

    • Audrey Chin

      Margaret you sure got the broad strokes and also the little details nicely spaced. You also had the spark in the center… “a 1930’s cabin perched on Rooney Lake waiting for me to bring it back to life.” That was the personal touch that made this description perfect!

    • Margaret Terry

      thx, Audry – so glad it resonated with you….it was my slice of heaven for many years.

    • Elise Abram

      Great scene, Margaret. I love the comparison to a Van Gough painting.

    • Margaret Terry

      thx Elise for the practice and the comments!

    • Elise Abram

      You are welcome. Thank you for posting.

    • Winnie

      That ‘more shades of yellow and orange than van Gogh could have imagined’ says so much.

  8. Michael Williams

    Seve felt like he had taken a breath in one place and exhaled in another. The newly verdant sprouts and shoots of mud season had been replaced by rich jades, purples and golden yellows of mid-summer. Wildflowers bloomed, their tiny blossoms doted the thick grass like colorful sequins sewn into a thick cashmere scarf.

    No longer mired in mud, his feet rested in the soft grass of a large field, one he was sure that been there a moment ago.He wanted to bend over and run his hands through it. He inhaled the tang of grown vegetation in the season’s prime of life. The trickle of the thawed ice and snow running down the hill had been replaced by the thrum of insects.

    His scalp prickled with beads of sweat-it was hot! The waning, early evening sun was shining down on the group from high in the sky. He pulled off his wool cap and began peeling the scarf and fleece off his body so he could feel the radiation all over.

    “What just happened?” one of the college students asked.
    “Did you do this?” he asked Erin, who was smiling impishly at the confusion she had wrought on the group.

    • catmorrell


    • nancy

      Nice. I like the peeling clothes.

    • John Fisher

      It puts me right there in the scene. Love the “tiny blossoms . . . like colorful sequins sewn into a thick cashmere scarf”.

    • Elise Abram

      Newly verdant sprouts, flowers like sequins dotting the landscape, insects thrumming, scalp tingling–these are great images that help describe the scene and set the mood.

  9. Li

    She woke with the sickness of fear. It filled her belly and she was full. She poured hot tea into her dry round mouth generously. Beneath her feet was cold, plastic linoleum. She knew without looking its muted blue colors. She wanted to feel their radiance and was disappointed she could not. The cold wrapped around her ankles like fog, and lingered below her knees. She was an enormous doll. Her movements were awkward and sudden. The world beneath her was fragile and fought back sharply. In this way she discovered items abandoned and unseen. She was like the old moppet at the antique store. A dancing doll that seemed to come alive. It didn’t matter whose music she heard,it was the gift of life. From behind she stepped into her own feet, then held her hands gently. The weight came back, the fullness of spirit, the subtle euphoria of incandescent freedom. She swirled with all the vibrancy of her room, the colors, and the heat, the smell, interacted with it all, was not alone.

    • Elise Abram

      I like the moppet-antique comparison and the euphoria of incandescent freedom. These are great images.

  10. John Fisher

    The sanctuary has been redone in blinding white, which makes the former pale green seem shabby in comparison. The pew cushions are a dramatic, velvety maroon, surprisingly sensual, replacing the warped, worn beige ones. I still like to surreptitiously put my nose to the wood of the pew in front of me and smell the walnut stain that was used; I’ve liked that smell since ’58 when it was much more readily discernible. A teenager, I’ve reached a stage where I question everything and rebel at the drop of an order. But just now, mid-service, the organ and the piano launch into the duet performance I secretly look very much forward to, for there is nothing else in my widening listening experience like it. The organ is warmth, it is subtle vibrato, it surrounds, caresses, woos. The piano emerges from this cocoon, the percussive ring of its tones and chords bringing forth dramatic significance, emerging completion, resolution, the wordless lyrical majesty of spirit. It resonates in a completely unique way with the music within.

    • Karl Tobar

      Strong ending, that second to last sentence is brilliant. Wordless lyrical majesty, very deep! Music can and does put images in your mind (as I’m sure you are all too familiar) and you can describe those images with words a.k.a. your own “lyrics.” That’s what I took from that phrase, anyway. You gave us a great view of this place, and the sounds and smells within.

    • Elise Abram

      It is difficult to put sensations to words, especially music, but you do it well here. Your description of the organ and piano music is beautiful.

    • John Fisher

      Thank you so much — it is such a charge to hear from an appreciative reader, it’s what I love about thewritepractice!

    • Elise Abram

      You’re very welcome. Thank you for participating by posting your piece.

  11. SJ

    Through two small square factory-made eyes I see life blowing in green and gold; a sky playing sky with cloud clowns on a blue stage entertains, while power pylons, stiff with strength, stand like conductors flinging inky chords through the symphony of wind to my wall, bringing the outside in,taking the inside out. While the world blows and bends there, my head aches here recalling last night’s late show, this morning’s early squash, as all around the detritus of a storm of my own making brews in paper, ink and image.

    • Audrey Chin

      Great hangover. Why do you have square factory-made eyes though. Are you looking through binoculars?

    • Elise Abram

      The detritus of a storm of your own making is a great way to describe a mess, and the idea of something bringing both outside in and inside out. Also, the cloud clouds and interpreting the sky as a stage is very descriptive.

    • Winnie

      You conjure up astounding images: cloud clowns on a blue stage, power pylons stiff with strength. Really good.

  12. The Striped Sweater

    Cleopatra slid through the forest of lupine, its handlike
    leaves sheltering her from the view of the wretched dog, its purple flowers
    waving in the sun. It was a sparkling May day, only slightly moist–pretty good for Seattle, and her goal was in sight: the Home Tree. She wasn’t sure when she’d first come to the home tree. She’d certainly been very young. Its branches had been her playground and refuge since she could remember. Unlike other trees, it didn’t simply reach for the sky. It grew out and around, as if it meant to create a
    safe center. She loved the smell of cedar and the comfort of its beamlike
    branches. It was large enough that the dog could enter, though he’d have to
    circle around. Even humans could get inside if they ducked, but it was easy
    enough for her to hop from branch to branch. Her small size and dappled colors
    offered the perfect mix of agility and camouflage. She was a shadow, a
    huntress, and in this place she was herself.

    • Elise Abram

      Vivid description of the tree. I like the idea if branches as a playground and if the branches forming a basketweave. The last sentence draws the piece together.

    • The Striped Sweater


  13. emaplayonwords

    Outside Neist Point Lighthouse in the Scottish Highlands, very recently after WWI (would love to visit there someday!).

    She stood at the edge of the great rock, coral skirt swirling about her legs as the wind rushed over her. At the cool, rapid breeze, shivers cascaded down her arms, and Celeste tugged her cape tighter, trying to stop the staccato pace of her heart.
    The sky nearly as black as the stormy ocean, fear clutched at her stomach, winding it into a knot that took the wind from her. The scratchy, gray wool of the cape made her itchy all over, and she just wanted to go back up into the lighthouse for shelter.
    But even then, she wouldn’t feel secure.
    Boom! A deathly sound rang from the
    heavens. She staggered back. Her insides shook. Her eyes scanned the waters. Nothing.
    The groaning of the sky seemed endless. A crack of lightning stung the sea, and her chin began to quiver. Tears began to fall from her eyes. He . . . he wasn’t coming home. Home to her.
    Splat! Splat! Splat!
    The rain beat against the ground around Celeste, and her throat began to convulse as silent sobs wracked her cold body. What if he was drowning at this very second? Struggling against the pull of the ferocious waves?
    At the thought, Celeste pressed her clouded gaze shut. Drew in a deep breath. No, he couldn’t be drowning. Not Ian.
    Crack! Lightning struck once more, and her eyelids flew open to watch. The deadly display sent doubt whirling through her core, chugging away any inkling of hope. Even a Marine—the men Germans deemed “stormtroopers,”—would not survive this storm on the waters.
    Dark, crimson hair now sopping wet, she clutched the cape at her front so tightly that her knuckles went white. Ian Riley was gone forever.
    The heavy rise and fall of her chest deepened as she cried, hand covering her mouth. She needed to go inside. It was logical. If she didn’t, Captain Huxley would worry . . .
    But he was gone.
    Wanting to die, Celeste just stood there as the storm breathed its death over her soul and the sea. The waters roared, and the light in her soul dimmed. Her legs became weak as she sank to the wet, grassy ground and wept, head in her hands.
    Her bones were so chilled she felt frozen. They would never get married. She would never have his children . . .
    Warmth smoothed into her shoulder, thawing a little of her skin. She didn’t need to look up to know it was Captain Huxley. The closest thing she had to a father.
    His hand tugged her up, his words deaf to her ears as the storm drowned them out. When she stood, she finally turned to look at him.
    Her voice caught in her throat when he pulled her into his strong embrace. She cried against his soaking wet but warm body, and his deep, Irish chuckle caressed her ear.
    He pulled back enough to look into her eyes, and a smile tugged at the corner of her lips. She didn’t know what to say. No words could form. Was she dreaming?
    The side of his mouth quirked up into that half-smile she adored. “Ye shouldn’t be out here in such weather, little lass.”
    More tears brimmed in Celeste’s eyes, and she blinked them away in a sorry attempt to gain a little composure. What she couldn’t stop was the rapid beating of her heart. “Lieutenant Riley,” she said, matter-of-factly, smile betraying her, “I apologize if my presence is an inconvenience.”
    He pulled her close again and kissed her hair. “Not at all, little lass. Not at all.”

    • Elise Abram

      Storm breathing death, staccato beat of her heart, the light in her soul dimming are all great images. I hope you get to see it for real sometime soon.

  14. Audrey Chin

    It seems good writers need to listen to song lyrics and read poetry. This is where the 10,000 watt sentences come from!

  15. Paul Owen

    We sit in our chairs next to the tent, facing west as the sun sets. The sky must be edible if I could get up there. Cirrus clouds stretched out like strands of cotton candy on a bed of raspberry sherbet. The colors gradually darken into a pool of inky blue. The faintest breeze whispers past, bringing clues from other campsites. Hints of cigarettes and hardwood. I scan left and right, noting dots of orange from campfires and brighter, pale yellow lanterns. I press the button on my watch and note the time on the turquoise display. It should be about time. I stand up, spin my chair around to face east, and sit back down. Without a word my son does the same.

    Now, as if on cue, the moon begins to rise. First just a sliver through the tree line across the field, then growing more circular each minute. It’s full tonight, and huge. I’d swear I can see one of the astronaut’s flags on the surface. The cheese wheel rises higher in the sky, casting its soft glow across the corn. The stalks stand at attention like soldiers on a parade field, swaying just so much in the breeze. Crunch, crunch, crunch, a fellow camper walks past our site on the gravel road. No wave for us, as the moon commands his attention.

    I breathe in the air wafting across the field. The fresh promise of sweet corn and sweet dreams. Leaning back in my chair I look up, or through, the sky picking out stars as they add their pinpoints of light.

    • Elise Abram

      Great imagery in this piece, especially the connection to food, which adds a whole other dimension of creativity.

    • Paul Owen

      Thanks, Elise. Guess I was hungry when I wrote this 🙂

  16. Margherita Crystal Lotus

    Paint with words: It was the Azure colour, and the moist Mediterranean mist rolling over our balcony that struck a magic cord and changed everything. It engulfed us with its smooth silky envelope. The sun soon to awake, were also slow in her movement to rise up over our differences. This sky line most likely has seen many battles, ours were no different, but at least we were not hewing black iron swords against each other….

    We had taken this double balcony room late the previous night. It was pitch black then. Fatigued, and craving some café latte from the restaurant, I peered sleepy eyed out towards the island of Capri. I felt my inner turmoil evaporate
    in an instance. Like a Scheherazade, I survived the night. Sipping my coffee
    later, I felt like a paradise had descended on us.

    I will never forget the feeling of azure, in the air, and the textures of sky, mist and water all combined. Here was a holy sanctuary where we could celebrate our fourth day as a married couple.

    • Elise Abram

      The moist Mediterranean mist is a great sensory image, as is referring to the azure sky as a feeling. You impart the whirlwind of travel, exhausting though memorable, in a creative way.

    • Margherita Crystal Lotus

      Thanks Elise, the day before in this story we were climbing Mount Vesuvius, arguing all along the way. Napoli citizens says that people often react that way because of the volcanic influence on the emotions.

  17. Spycacher

    They let the boat drift downstream, only amending the course to avoid being driven to the coast, taking the full advantage of the fast stream in the middle of the river. It was treacherous, though. The fast flowing river would hide submerged sandbanks and rocks. There was also the danger to encounter a floating trunk carried downstream from the jungles of river source. Apart
    from the few times, Ismail went to town, they had no experience with navigation so it would be more a thing of faith rather than know where to steer. The shores were pitch-black and were framing the less dark, by the stars and
    moon-illuminated river. The banks passed by fast, as a black silhouette varying
    between ups and downs only to be disrupted by some scattered, blurred and
    blinking lights; maybe from houses in villages: people were already preparing
    for the new day. The only clearly identifiable shadows are the palm trees,
    which were perfectly outlined against the dim illuminated sky. The moon was
    gone. Sometimes the skyline narrowed into a thin line separating the soft
    murmuring flowing water and the starry sky. Later, a small line appeared on the horizon, the first indication that the day was about to break; first red then,
    changing rapidly to orange and, at some point, a green flash just before the
    first glowing rim of the sun emerging. Around here, dawn was very fast and soon the whole place was lit in an orange glow with a big yellow disk in its centre. Now features were distinguishable, but the water was still an obscure smear. They did not speak in the whole journey.

    • Elise Abram

      I like your description of the sunrise, and describing the darkened water as an obscure smear.

    • Spycacher

      Thanks. I appreciate your feedback.
      By the way, what is the word for bringing the heard to the waterhole?

    • Elise Abram

      You could say you are watering the herd.

    • Spycacher

      Dear Elise, Thank you for the reply, and I am sorry for the delay of my answer. Although I can use the term, “watering the herd” it is not actually one word and what I was looking for. After further research, the word I was looking for is “drenching”.

  18. Winnie

    Itwas only when Miles behind her switched back the engine of the Tiger Moth that Lara relaxed. The poor little engine in front of her had struggled like a drunken fly to get them to this height. She looked up, and around her, and felt at one with the endless blue void.
    The wind strummed the wires connecting the ribbed wings and snatched at her scarf, spreading it’s emerald green against the yellow canvas ribs of the fuselage.
    While the pulsing red orb of the African sun scorched her cheeks and open arms, icy-white strips of cirrus high above slashed across the azure void that stretched away into infinity.
    A brown surge of satisfaction suffused her. So this is where the angels flew.
    For the first time on her life she felt her spirit breathe, in deep hungry gulps.
    She turned round and stuck her thumb in the air. Miles smiled back, his
    teeth a snowy slash against the rusty cracked brown of his leather flying helmet.
    She closed her eyes and allowed a deep purple silence to wash over her, in caressing waves of lilac and magenta. The comforting taste of ripe berries tantalized her tongue.
    When she opened her eyes an escort of vultures was gliding effortlessly around them in graceful circles. Curious heads swivelled on ash-grey necks as they inspected the intruding yellow biplane.
    Miles’ voice came over the intercom. “They catch the morning thermals and glide for hundreds of miles.” Lara thought of the dust-devils she’d seen dancing, and twisting.across the parched khaki winter earth. Those funnels reached into these dreaming shades of blue she was now part of.

    She looked over the side at the
    safari lodge they’d just left, now a .grey smudge on the beige aridness the
    winter veld.

    • Elise Abram

      Beatiful and vivid imagery here, Winnie. I particulary like the description of freedom as feeling one’s spirit breathe and the deep purple silence. It’s an unusual image, as we normally think of silence in terms of sound, but it works brilliantly here I think. Too many great word pictures here to mention in the comment. This was an interesting read.

  19. P_RJT

    The Shih-Tzu stared imperiously at the wailing baby. She countered the piercing squeals with looks of disdain out of the corner of her right eye. Ever since the newcomer had been introduced to the household, it had been nothing but chaos intertwined with bouts of boredom. Mistress-mother sighed as she looked at the screaming, toothless log of flesh. Her face was long and drawn with charcoal rings around her droopy eyes and her ears were slowly numbing as a defense mechanism to the continuous gush of infantile protests spewing from between a pair of pink gums which were turning as red as the tear-stained rouged cheeks bordering the source of acute disturbance. In contrast, Mistress-mother’s cheeks and body were bloated and after the screamer finally settled down in its sleeping bag, she looked like a beached beluga whale when she gratefully gave in to the sweet relief of exhaustion and fell asleep in her deep blue robe, the one with the dark swirly paisleys. The screamer happened to be lying at an angle to mistress-mother but the whole picture gave the impression of it being discarded in a corner although the Shih-Tzu knew deep down that none was a more discarded object than herself.

  20. P_RJT

    The Shih-Tzu stared imperiously at the wailing baby. She countered the piercing squeals with looks of disdain out of the corner of her right eye. Ever since the newcomer had been introduced to the household, it had been nothing but chaos intertwined with bouts of boredom. Mistress-mother sighed as she looked at the screaming, toothless log of flesh. Her face was long and drawn with charcoal rings around her droopy eyes and her ears were slowly numbing as a defense mechanism to the continuous gush of infantile protests spewing from between a pair of pink gums which were turning as red as the tear-stained rouged cheeks bordering the source of acute disturbance. In contrast, Mistress-mother’s cheeks and body were bloated and after the screamer finally settled down in its sleeping bag, she looked like a beached beluga whale when she gratefully gave in to the sweet relief of exhaustion and fell asleep in her deep blue robe, the one with the dark swirly paisleys. The screamer happened to be lying at an angle to mistress-mother but the whole picture gave the impression of it being discarded in a corner although the Shih-Tzu knew deep down that none was a more discarded object than herself.

    • Elise Abram

      Great imagery portrayed here, Guest. I love the way you describe the baby as a toothless log of flesh and its crying as a continuous gush of infantile protests. The use of spewing in this context is incredibly descriptive as well. Also, the picture painted of the Mistress-mother’s exhaustion is vivid as well. The twist of viewing the scene from the Shih-Tzu’s point of view is genius.

    • P_RJT

      Hi Elise,
      This is Guest :), yes I got shy after posting my piece.
      Thank you so much for the feedback. It means a lot to me, coming from a professional. This piece is heavily based on my personal experience and observation of my fur baby after the birth of my daughter, I guess reality should take some of the credit, not just my imagination :). Thank you again.

  21. Contrary Bear

    Sometimes I wondered if God put beautiful moments on earth to proclaim he was really there. After all, what else could this be but paradise? As I sat there, arms cradling my legs, water swirling around me, my mind- my everything- was bliss. The water, cold and grainy as it was, felt heavenly, and I wished suddenly that I was sitting in more than a foot of it. The sand was trying to dig me under, I knew, and its grainy pebbles flowed with the current- in and out, in and out.
    Ahead of me was a sky so swollen with colors that it was about to burst, and I almost imagined I could see the angels pouring more paint as the sun dipped lower, blushing with embarrassment. Gods mighty stokes illuminated the sky with golds, tangerines, champagnes, tangerines, and crimsons, as I watched with wonderment.
    Soon the paint began to thin, and the sun slid behind the solid mass of Atlantic Ocean. The sun with its shining cherub face was gone, replaced with the more sultry moon. It bathed everything in its shimmering light, enough illuminate but still cover in darkness. The stars flickered and shimmered behind the moon, her background dancers far away. I wonder if she knew some of those stars could outshine even her if they were here. But then, that would make her jealous.
    The world looks never ending from here. The water is shockingly, disturbingly calm, and reflects every star, every pinprick of distant light. And I think, this is God’s kaleidoscope- there is no end, no beginning to these twinkling stars.
    As the stars glimmer on, the water grows colder, until I can feel my pulse slow and thrum in my ears. I am no longer welcome here- the water bites at me and the sandy pebbles scrape at my legs and rub my skin raw.
    No, I will go. For soon the sun will plunge the world into light once more, and I will be able to see the world with new eyes.

    • Elise Abram

      This is great, Contrary Bear. I love the way you juxtapose the senses in this piece (as in grainy water) and the connection between the heavens (Gods mighty strokes and angels pouring paint colours). I see the connection to the marmalade skies as well.

  22. Kizi

    Oh yeah! I agree with the idea that there is a coincidence.

  23. Jessica Burde

    The cerulean waters arched over me,
    cutting off the paler sky and for a bare instant I stood in the
    ocean’s shade. Then sight disappeared as earth’s most relentless
    hammer smashed me to the sand. Dragged by the water, I could only
    tell from down by the sand paper scouring of the beach ripping away
    my skin. In the water, you can’t hear yourself scream. The most
    violent moment of my life took place in cotton-sheathed silence. An
    eternal instant, and I was released, the watery tyrant retreating to
    gather itself for another blow. Couching and choking I scrambled to
    my feet, ignoring the sand that filled my hair, mouth, ears and suit.
    Faster than thought I ran, desperate to escape the next blow. Strong
    arms swept me up, lifting me out of reach of the waves. I clung to my
    hero, tall as a giant and stronger than the mountains. My father set
    me on his shoulders and stood firm as the waves crashed around him,
    the spray tickling my feet.


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