Remember That Time I Went to France?

Before April 2017, I could never say something like, “Remember that time I went to France?”

I know plenty of people who’ve been to Europe, including all the people I know who live in Europe, but I hadn’t made it there myself until a recent trip with Cruising Writers. I attended a week-long writers workshop/retreat at a château in the French countryside. If that sounds fabulous, you’re right—it was fabulous. Here’s where we were:

View of the Chateau
Chateau Les Carrasses

Yes, a view like that is inspirational. It was a peaceful setting where I could devote attention to story ideas and to my writing.

We also had workshops with fabulous writing coach Margie Lawson, whose deep editing techniques are well-worth studying.

Julie & Margie
Margie Lawson & Me, in the vineyards

I met other amazing writers, who stoked my excitement, filled my well with wisdom, and wrote alongside me in settings like this one:

View from Our Window
Outside Terrace & Heated Pool, as seen from our room

We took brainstorming walks along the back roads flanked with vineyards and flowers in bloom. One of those walks even launched a new idea for a series I’m super-excited to start writing.

Curvy Road and Flowers
French Back Roads where the Muse Visited

This trip solidified my growing belief that new experiences make you a better writer. That could be visiting a museum in your city or it could involve an intercontinental flight and staying a countryside château in France. I’m definitely partial to travel—because you also experience a different setting and culture—but stepping outside your comfort zone matters most.

Now if you’re going to write about some place you haven’t been, I do suggest scheduling a visit. Because my pictures show only a snippet of my experience in France, which included the language, the food, the smells, the textures, the people, and much more. There’s no perfect substitute for being there.

But regardless, get out and experience new things. Hang out with other writers in various parts of their journey. Learn about writing craft and the publishing business from experts, like Margie and the others—which at this retreat included an agent, an editor, a literary translator, and a Kobo representative.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to see more, do more, learn more, check out the next trip planned by Cruising Writers. I’ll be on this September cruise headed to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel, along with writing experts Lisa Cron (author of Wired for Story and Story Genius) and Angela Ackerman (author of The Emotion Thesaurus, The Setting Thesaurus, and much more).

In the meantime, let me leave you with one more photo from France. It’s quite an experience to watch the sunrise over the vineyards. This picture doesn’t fully capture the awesome view, but here you go:

Sunrise (Again) Over the Vineyard
The Sun Also Rises…in France

Au revoir!

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Visceral Verbs for Writing

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what discoveries we can find!

To me, one of the challenges in writing is to depict a character’s inner reactions on the page. Instead of telling the reader that someone in your novel is scared, show their visceral reactions by telling us how their gut twisted, their ears heated, their mouth went dry, etc. Show their body language as they cross their arms, slow their gait, etc.

The best authors do this extremely well, finding fresh and engaging ways to express the character’s emotions and even give the reader many of those same reactions.

I recently purchased a book I’d been eyeing for some time: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. If you’ve not picked it up, I highly recommend this book. It details body language and physiological responses that people experience with different emotions like anger, anxiety, disgust. I can tell that this easy-to-read reference book will become a stand-by on my shelf (my Nook shelf, but whatever).

But I sometimes struggle with verbs to show how a character’s gut, heart, lungs, shiver, shudder, insides, whatever react to an emotion-producing stimulus. So I started to make a list.

Today I’ve decided to share that list with you and ask you to contribute your own words. Of course, not all of these verbs work with every body part, but it’s a reference to draw from if you need it.

Words in text cloud

Ache

Billow

Bite

Calm

Chill

Churn

Clench

Close

Coil

Collapse

Ease

Echo

Empty

Explode

Fall

Grasp

Grip

Hammer

Heat

Hit

Hover

Itch

Kink

Knot

Nestle

Pluck

Prick

Pull

Punch

Race

Rake

Rip

Rumble

Scoop

Scorch

Scratch

Settle

Shake

Shiver

Shovel

Shut

Sink

Sizzle

Slam

Slap

Snake

Sneak

Squeeze

Sting

Tear

Throb

Thump

Turn

Twist

Warm

Wrap

Wrench

Wriggle

So that’s my list of 58 visceral verbs. What words would you add?

If you want to learn more about how to write visceral responses, my best suggestion is to check out Margie Lawson’s courses, like Empowering Character’s Emotions. She also offers it as a lecture packet.