Many thanks to Leigh Goff for sharing her insight with us today on Writing Advice From the Pros!
Sparking a Writer’s Creativity
from Leigh Goff
If I struggle with writing a descriptive scene, I know it’s time to step outside my present environment (the sofa, a hot cup of coffee, and a fluffy dog at my feet) and explore the world around me—really explore it. There’s something about traveling and sightseeing that stimulates my senses and creativity and it might be just what other writers need, too.
|Photo courtesy of Cody Board Unsplash
When I was little, I loved traveling to visit my grandparents every summer. I remember counting down the days and planning what to pack in my blue and red-striped suitcase. I remember the excitement of my first airplane ride and my first trip to Disney World. Disney was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. It went something like this—the Florida sun blazed hot against my skin while the magical kingdom around me smelled of caramel apples and mouth-watering vanilla waffles. And, oh, the stomach-whirling water rides and fantasy-filled adventures that swept me away while I was there. When I arrived home after that first visit, I wrote all about it in my diary, every scrumptious detail. I didn’t want to forget where I’d been and what it felt like to be there because if I didn’t go back ever again, I would be able to revisit that dream-like place in my diary.
I’m an adult now, however, I still need to explore different worlds in order to get my writer’s creativity flowing. Whether my travels include walking in the woods, trekking through London, or taking a ghost tour of the historic buildings and cemeteries in my hometown, every trip is filled with descriptive possibilities. I don’t know if a future main character will end up lost in a city café ordering escargots and later singing along to a street musician’s rendition of ‘Chevaliers de la Table Ronde,’ but I’ll be able to describe it with accuracy because I’ve done it.
One memorable sightseeing trip was to Paris, which included a stop at the Louvre. Breathtaking. I’m talking about the artworks—every single one I saw, including Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The masterpiece was smaller than I’d imagined, but she was a rock star. Crowds lined up outside the salon for a glimpse of her. Finally, it was my turn. She was beautiful, mysterious, wise, and timeless.
As I stood there before her, I thought about the Da Vinci Code written by Dan Brown. I found myself recalling his vivid descriptions of the museum including its parquet floors, vaulted archways, glass pyramid, and the paintings’ gilded frames. Being there in person was amazing, but if I hadn’t had that experience, Dan Brown’s descriptions of the Louvre and a few of its precious contents were the next best thing to being there.
Writers create or recreate worlds with words and traveling experiences can be the spark for those words. As author Larry Brooks once said, “Writers experience the world…in a unique way. We look for meaning. We see it when we are not paying attention…We are scribes to the ticking of the days, and we have a job to do.” We just need to get out there and experience it for ourselves.
Here is a little from my latest novel for your reading pleasure.
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a royal legacy of dark magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead.
Engaged in a deadly game and not knowing whom her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses, she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.
The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.
I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.
My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?
A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.
In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”
“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.
I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”
His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”
“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”
“To help you. I want to help you.”
“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”
He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”
Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”
“You read the note.”
His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”
I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.
“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.
The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”
What was he besides completely contemptible?
“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”
I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”
A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”
Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”
“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.
“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”
He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”
I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.
He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”
I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”
“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.
My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”
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Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.
Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.
Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.