Monday, May 18, 2009

Guest - Elizabeth Delisi

Good morning, everyone! Today's guest, author Elizabeth Delisi, and I share a probably common to all writers trait - she wanted to be a writer from a very early age.

In fact, Elizabeth wanted to be a writer since she was in first grade, and probably would have written in the womb if she could have convinced her mother to swallow a pencil. But life hasn't always gone the way she planned, and on her road to publication she worked as a motel maid, waitress, secretary, administrative aide, substitute teacher, and newspaper reporter.

Elizabeth is a multi-published, award-winning author of romance, mystery and suspense.. In addition to her writing, Elizabeth edits for several small publishers and individuals, and teaches online writing courses for Writer's Digest.

Elizabeth lives in New Hampshire with her husband, dog and cat. She enjoys hearing from her readers at and invites everyone to visit her website at Or, check out her blog: .

Read all the way to the -- Lynda Again section to see how you can win one of Elizabeth's books.


By Elizabeth Delisi

Atmosphere, or mood, is a very important aspect of your story, but one that's often overlooked by new writers. Atmosphere signals to the reader what kind of story you've written, sets the scene, contributes to the tension and suspense, and can help advance the plot. One of the easiest ways to make atmosphere work for you is with the proper choice of words for your book.

Words can be used in many ways to build atmosphere. For example, flowery words might evoke a lush romantic mood, whereas sparse, clipped words may bring to mind a hardboiled mystery. Exaggeration and understatement each suggest a particular type of work, as does repetition. Some words can be used to create a mood based on their sound as well as their dictionary definitions, so check your synonyms carefully and choose the perfect one to suit your purpose.

In using words to create atmosphere, the thesaurus is your best friend. Look up your nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives, to make sure you're using the one that works best for your story. Word choice can become part of your style. You may be writing in the same genre as other writers, but the words you choose will differentiate you from them. Below are passages from two books in the same genre, written by two different writers. See if you can identify who wrote each:


For people like us, little people who went scurrying through the world like mice in a cartoon, sometimes laughing at the assholes was the only revenge you could ever get. Her working all those jobs and taking the overtime and taping her ankles when they swelled and putting her tips away in a jar marked ALAN'S COLLEGE FUND–just like one of those dopey rags-to-riches stories, yeah, yeah–and telling me again and again that I had to work hard, other kids could maybe afford to play Freddy Fuckaround in school but I couldn't because she could put away her tips until doomsday cracked and there still wouldn't be enough; in the end it was going to come down to scholarships and loans if I was going to go to college and I had to go to college because it was the only way out for me...and for her.


For an instant, in the girl's lustrous blue eyes, behind the twin mirror images of the window and its burden of smoldering summer-evening light, behind the smoky reflections of the layered kitchen shadows, something seemed to turn with horrid laziness, like a body twisting slowly, slowly back and forth at the end of a hangman's noose. Leilani looked away almost at once, and yet on the strength of a single Budweiser, Micky imagined that she had glimpsed a soul suspended over an abyss.


Did you guess the authors? The first example is from RIDING THE BULLET by Stephen King, Scribner/Philtrum Press, 2000, ISBN# 0-7432-0467-0. The second example is from ONE DOOR AWAY FROM HEAVEN by Dean Koontz, Bantam Books, 2001, ISBN# 0-533-80137-6.

King and Koontz both write in the same genre, horror–but the mood they set with their word choices can be very different. King's style is forthright, earthy, and outspoken, and his word choice is what achieves this mood. Suppose he had worded this sentence: "For people like us, little people who went scurrying through the world like mice in a cartoon, sometimes laughing at the assholes was the only revenge you could ever get" in this way: "For some of us, humble people who hasten through the world like a briefly-felt vagrant breeze, smiling at the fools was the only retribution you might obtain."

You'll notice the meaning remains the same, but the atmosphere created by the sentence changes. In King's original sentence, the impression is given of a character who is perhaps uneducated, certainly someone who grew up in difficult circumstances and as a consequence is bitter. In the reworded sentence, you get the feeling that the character is a bit more educated, perhaps down on his luck but more wistful or ironic than bitter.

In contrast to King's style, Koontz's is leisurely, elegant, and refined. Yet if he had worded this sentence: "Leilani looked away almost at once, and yet on the strength of a single Budweiser, Micky imagined that she had glimpsed a soul suspended over an abyss" this way: "Leilani swiveled her head, but with the Bud cruising through her veins, Micky reckoned she'd seen the kid's spirit swinging over some deep, dank pit," the mood is different though the actions remain the same.

Koontz's original sentence makes the reader feel that Micky has a poetic soul and feels great empathy for Leilani, while the reworded sentence makes Micky sound like a cowgirl with her booted feet on the table, observing Leilani's plight in a sympathetic but detached manner.

In both examples, the original sentence gives the reader a feeling for the narrator's character, and the changed sentence changes the impression the reader gets of that person. Vocabulary tells your reader a lot about your characters–their education, their background, the area of the country they're from, their mood, their beliefs. Characters and their actions, in turn, help to set the mood of the book.

Virtually every word in your story should work for you to set the mood, advance the plot, and describe your characters and settings. So, choose them with care!



by Elizabeth Delisi

One minute, Hattie Williams is in a museum, sketching a gold necklace that belonged to Hatshepsut, first female Pharaoh of Egypt; and the next, she's lying in a room too archaic to be the museum, with a breathtakingly handsome, half-naked man named Senemut bending over her.

Hattie soon discovers she's been thrust into the body and life of Hatshepsut, with no way back to her own time. Tuthmosis, the heir to the throne, hates her; the High Priest of Amun and the commander of the army want to kill her and Tuthmosis; and the best bathroom facilities in the country are the equivalent of a cat-box.

To make matters more difficult, she's falling helplessly in love with Senemut, and soon, she's not sure she even wants to return home. To protect Tuthmosis from assassination, the lovers arrange to put Hattie on the throne. But, what should she do when she suddenly finds herself, an obscure artist from Chicago, crowned ruler of all Egypt?

I'd love to have your readers check out all my books listed here:

Elizabeth Delisi
Fiction With Flair!


-- Lynda Again. Elizabeth has graciously offered a free copy of the e-book version of her novel SINCE ALL IS PASSING. She'll select one lucky person from those who leave a comment from now until Friday so make sure you check back to see if YOU'VE won :-D

Have a great week, everyone!


unwriter said...

I do agree that the choice of words, the voice, does make a difference. I only write pieces that are g rated so I have to watch what I say and how I say it. Much of what I write is done in dialogue. I prefer to write this dialogue without tags, I feel it has more impact and doesn't take the reader away from the story.

Paul McDermott said...

It's interesting when you find something you weren't expecting ...

Doing family research I found a pair of real-life "star-cross'd lovers" dating from roughly the time a certain Wm. Shakespeare Esq. was writing about R & J.

King Cormac's daughter, Una Bhàn, was courted by Tomàs Costello, a well-connected young noble: but Cormac did not consider him "good enough" for his daughter.
He imprisoned her on an island, and Tomàs continued to swim out to her every night.

The 'short' version of the story: she dies of a broken heart, he dies of pneumonia. Two rose bushes can still be seen entwined around the door of the (ruined) castle on Lough Key, Co. Roscommon, Ireland.

Sheri said...

Great article. Liz! I so agree!

Gwynlyn MacKenzie said...

Ha! I guess I'm not the only one who will spend hours on a paragraph that just isn't "right." Thus, I can vomit a book in less than two weeks, but cleaning up the mess takes much longer. Still, looking back at the original draft once I'm finished--and we all know finished is relative in this biz--makes the time worthwhile.

Tarot By Arwen said...

I particularly liked the rewrite of King's passage. Amazingly I did know that was King but I have only read ONE book by him. Isn't that weird. I just do not do horror. Grin

Elizabeth Delisi said...

unwriter, I agree, dialogue by itself can be powerful. Sounds like you have a good handle on what works for you.

What a lovely, tragic story, Paul. I hope you write it!

Thanks, Sheri. Great to see you here!

Gwynlyn, I agree about a draft being "finished." I have books in print that I still want to change! Hah.

Arwen, I've always thought King and Koontz the perfect examples of style making a different story, as they both write horror, but their styles are as different as can be.


Ashley Ladd said...

As usual, sage advice Liz. Sounds like you're busy working as always.

Elizabeth Delisi said...

Thanks, Ashley. I try to keep busy! Glad you enjoyed the article.

Amy S. said...

Lady of the Two Lands sounds good!

Elizabeth Delisi said...

Thanks, Amy! If you like time travel romance and ancient Egypt, it's the perfect book for you... :-)

Lynda K. Scott said...

Congrats to unwriter who has won Elizabeth's SINCE ALL IS PASSING in ebook form. Please contact her at

And thanks to Elizabeth for being with us this week!

Elizabeth Delisi said...

It's been my pleasure, Lynda! I've enjoyed chatting with all of you.