Mystic Writer

For better writing, shake it like a Polaroid picture


It never fails. My boys come to me, panicked because they can’t find their homework or belt or batting gloves or their favorite ball cap.

(Flickr: Chris Potako)

(Flickr: Chris Potako)

I tell them — look in your bedroom, but they return precisely 20 seconds later to tell me there is no sign of their lost item.

I send them back again. “Look with your hands; not your eyes,” I say.

Too often, my kids will search blindly for something, scanning the room with wide, unseeing eyes.

Read: On writing as a form of prayer

But, as most moms know, the best way to search for something buried is to look by lifting things out of the way, shaking out a blanket, turning over a backpack, picking through a pile of clothes.

Writing is like this, too.

It’s our job as writers to do the deep digging for our readers. We need to do the heavy lifting work of research, of delving into a character’s history and pulling out those important, nearly-missed details.

So, how is this done?

One way to access these necessary little gems is to activate all your senses and plunge deeply within your intuitive spirit to discover a story’s secrets.

Read: On finding writing inspiration in a snowy wood

It’s not enough just to “see” your characters — you need to know what they hear and smell, the texture of their skin, their souls. What feels good to them? What tastes drive them to the point of distraction?

Likewise, your narrative and its setting should be equally developed with a richly woven tapestry of images that can be touched and tasted, seen and heard.

Uncover these details by closing your eyes and letting the scene slowly develop in your mind similar to how an old Polaroid picture materializes. Wave it and blow on it, hold it to the light and then watch as the film’s images mushroom on the paper, each feature coming into view with more clarity and color until it finally and fully portrays the scene.

Because when it comes to storytelling, it’s never enough just to “see” your way — you have to be patient and look with your hands.

Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor at and founder of Breeze Media & Communications. Learn more about her at


Kerri S. Mabee

Leave a Reply