#WritingChallenge! Bring your scene to life with the five senses

By Deirdre

WritingChallenge imageWhether your romance is set in a dangerous, dust-choked rodeo or the luxury of a boutique hotel, your ability to vividly evoke the characters’ experience is essential for the reader to believe your hero and heroine are real people – and to care about what happens to them.

One of the best ways to immerse your reader in your story is to describe scenes using all the senses. As Harlequin Assistant Editor Claire Caldwell says in her So You Think You Can Write post It’s All in the Details, “Visual details are the most common . . . but don’t forget to change it up . . . what does the barn smell like? What are the qualities of the hero’s voice? How does his chest feel under his flannel shirt?”

Your challenge this weekend? Write a brief scene or scene fragment – just a few paragraphs is fine – and include the sights, sounds smells, textures – and possibly flavors! – of the scene.

Tip: Try not to “interpret” for your reader. Let her experience the scene along with your characters by avoiding “filter” words. For example, rather than saying, “Evie felt the chill of the cherry ice pop on her lips. She saw a pink drop stain her knee, and heard the sound of cicadas, reminding her of the summers of her childhood,” try, “The cherry ice pop numbed her lips. A sticky, pink drop of melted juice stained her knee. Cicadas buzzed in the trees, and in the sultry heat, Evie was seven years old again.”

For more on using description in your romance, check out Claire’s post.

Ok, ready? Close your eyes, breathe deeply, listen . . . and write your scene in the comments here!

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  1. Rebecca Laurence

    The damp heavy air tugged at her body as Sera awakened from her stupor. As the fog started to lift from her mind, she noticed a slow drip of water beating in her ears, and gave her something to focus on. Her eyes were scratchy and raw from the rough hessian cloth that rasped her skin whenever she moved her head. The bite of the cable ties around her wrists sent searing pain along her arm as she struggled to pull free. Her feet also strapped to the chair legs.
    As she struggled she heard a click, then the rolling sound of metal along concrete. A dank musty odour filled her nose as a rush of fresh air chased away the stale murkiness around her.
    Someone was entering the room. The thump of heavy boots grew closer. “Whose there?” Sera demanded.
    “Just me again Seraphine.” The low hedonistic voice of her captor replied making the hairs on her arms stand to attention.
    “What do you want with me and how do you know my parents?” Venom spat out of her mouth.
    A warm breath, heated the bottom of her earlobe as he whispered into her ear. “So many questions. Relax Seraphine, all will be revealed soon my love.”
    She jerked her head away from the wretched stench of rotting teeth. Pain seared through her wrists and ankles. “With breath like that I’m not surprised you have to kidnap women.”
    “Ooo, feisty one aren’t we? I guess it’s true what they say about red-heads.”
    Every muscle in Sera’s body tightened as she remembered those words. The same words uttered that night in the alley, the night she met Raith. Have they been tailing her since way back then? Were her attackers somehow linked to this guy?

    • Deirdre

      Rebecca, I like the way you’ve conveyed so much information about Sera’s situation without explicitly telling the reader what’s happening. We know that Sera’s held prisoner, she’s bound and blindfolded, and her captor has the worst breath ever! I also love how you’ve set the scene from Sera’s point of view, so we can’t “see” anything, and must rely on what she hears, (the water, the footsteps), feels (her blindfold, the cable ties) and smells (the damp air, her captor’s breath). You’ve set yourself a real challenge and done a great job!
      To make the scene even more immediate, think about what you would like us to know about Sera’s thoughts, feelings and sensations, and make sure every sentence contributes to that. For example, what’s a “hedonistic voice”? How does her body react when “tugged at” by the damp air?
      Thanks for taking on our writing challenge! Nice job!

  2. Chrissie

    Ben cautiously peeked in the front door of the one room house. “You dressed yet?”
    Sarah was standing in a creamy chemise, staring down at the bed full of feminine clothes. “What do you wear with what?”
    He crossed the room to stand beside her and looked down at the pile spread out on the bed. “You expect me to tell you?”
    “You brought them to me.” She smiled with a sweet alluring curve to her lips.
    He cursed under his breath. From the moment they met, she had shocked him with her modern ways. She lured him with sincerity and taunted him with her natural beauty. She ranted and raved, and even bit his arm. Each time he had held his rising desire in check.
    No way could he resist her any longer. Overwhelmed by the dizzy passion she built inside him, he pulled her into the tight circle of his arms. His lips melted against her soft mouth, savoring her like a fine aphrodisiac.
    She moaned and opened her lips to him, the invitation potently clear. His tongue slipped inside, caressing the inner reaches of her delicate mouth. He had seen her tempting little tongue one too many times not to want a taste of its sweetness.
    He remembered the first night they met. He’d watched her lick the chocolate shake from her full pink lips, innocently driving him wild and hot with need. It was all he could do that night to turn away from something he knew he shouldn’t start.
    Now it was too late. She was here in his time, involved in his life, and he couldn’t deny that his feelings toward her were spinning out of control. He had avoided personal relationships with other women in the future simply because he didn’t want any ties. With Sarah, the ties were already there between them like an invisible thread woven through time.
    “Ben,” she whimpered against his shoulder.
    She was sweet and sexy, and he wanted her. Her warm breath brushed against his cheek as she nestled her face into his neck and kissed him there. She shivered against him, her arms wrapping tighter around his waist. He wanted to be closer too. He needed to feel naked skin upon naked skin, and ultimately become buried within her.
    He shook his head in confusion. Had he gone crazy? What was he doing? He was a gunfighter and his enemies were numerous. No lady should have to deal with the fear that would inevitably go along with loving a man like him. He had to back off now, get himself under control again.
    He stepped away from her and gazed down at the bed with deep longing before he spoke, “You put on the bloomers, then the corset, and then the dress. Do it.”
    “No.”
    “No?”
    Looking across at her, the stubborn tilt of her smooth dainty chin challenged him. Just moments ago, he’d been kissing that very spot. She would argue if for no other reason than to keep him riled. Sarah McGill was a fighter and a very determined woman. Just like her father, she would win the battle and conquer all odds.
    He didn’t begin to understand the complexities of a woman from his own time, so how could he understand Sarah? She was a new breed of woman. And she scared the hell out of him. He was already far too interested for his own good.
    “No.” She stood with her feet apart and arms crossed over her breasts. “What do you think you can do? Walk in here and give me a kiss that literally shakes my world, then go on as though nothing has happened between us?”
    “Sarah.” He reached for her. She was so beautiful and try as he might to resist, he was falling under her spell.
    “Don’t touch me. I can’t think straight when you touch me.” She turned her back on him and slowly began to dress.
    She put everything on in the order he described. Except the corset. She stuffed the stiff binding back into the travel bag. “There’s no way in hell I will be cinched into that awful contraption. Some macho, womanizing, male-chauvinist pig probably invented the thing for his overly fat and demure wife—just so she could suffer.”
    He chuckled at her bold comment as he leaned against the wall and studied her. Damn, if she wasn’t the most appealing female he’d ever laid eyes on. He hoped she would stay angry with him and keep him at arm’s length for her own sake. His will power was weakening much too fast. He didn’t want to let her out of his sight, but how much temptation was a normal man expected to take?
    “Do you enjoy watching me get dressed?” She peeked coyly up at him through thick whispery lashes.
    “Do you think I’m made of steel?”
    She laughed, a light alluring sound, and then looked him up and down with a provocative smile. “I bet you wish you were.”
    “Let me know when you want to find out,” he offered, daring her to respond to his silent invitation. She didn’t. But her big blue eyes never left him, their message loud and clear. She wanted him too.
    Ben yanked the door open and walked out into the cool night air. He couldn’t believe she’d turned the tables on him, and he was the one blushing cherry red. Dang-blasted female!
    He wasn’t going to deal with her any longer than necessary. Gordon would just have to tell her the bad news himself. He refused to get his head turned around more than it already had been by Gordon’s wild and wily daughter.
    A good stiff drink at the Lucky Heart Saloon was what he needed. But he didn’t drink, so his usual sarsaparilla would have to suffice. Then a nice cold bath down at the bathhouse behind the saloon to ease his discomfort and keep his mind on more important things. Like learning what the good marshal was up to tonight.

    • Patience Bloom

      Hi, Chrissie! This scene has a nice flow in its narrative and you get the sense a strong sense of the connection between the characters. You make great use of point of view, putting the reader in the hero’s shoes while keeping the scene moving. The intimacy between them is especially well done. There were nice touches to the heroine’s personality, too, with her not knowing what clothes to wear and then reprimanding him for his expecting her to comply. Their attraction is evident, as I mention, but I would avoid more clichéd language, such as “dizzy passion” and “savoring her like a fine aphrodisiac.” Also, and this may just be a pet peeve, but “literally shakes my world” sounds very modern and isn’t literally possible.  But don’t mind me!
      I was a little confused about the time period. It reads like a contemporary story, but with historical touches. For someone like me, I would love more obvious details about the time period and setting. Aside from this, you do a lovely job with pacing and definitely establish the romance. Great job!

    • Chrissie

      Thank you for your nice comments, Patience! This is a time-travel story. That’s why it was confusing to you. The story begins in the Utah desert, present day. The heroine falls back through time in an old mine shaft whilst chasing her cat. The hero is a time-traveller from the past, a gunslinger set on revenging his brother’s death. Lots of other twists and turns. Alas, no one wants time-travels right now.

  3. Amanda Gray

    No, the silent atmosphere of the place that swept around him wasn’t his normal scene or the type of place one would usually find him inhabiting. Not that the bar was silent, with the murmuring of voices and the strands of jazz and classical music that took turns to dance around the room. But it was quiet in comparison to the sounds that usually rang through his ears. He was use to sitting in places where a thumping baseline shook your whole body, even if you weren’t moving, and you had to yell to be heard by the person next to you.

    Even the people here weren’t the same. People who might not have been far removed from him in age, but already carried the weight of responsibility of the real world. A world that he refused to worry about, resisting the attempts of others to drag him into it, especially those of his family. A world that he ran screaming from, not wanting to give up the illusion of freedom that he cloaked himself in. Yet they were also the same. All of them, just like he was, caught up in the seedy underbelly of the city. More attuned to the dark of night than the sunlit day as they went about their business, often skirting around the edges of the law. People who wore smiles like accessories and laughed to hide their sinister nature, a nature that said, be afraid.

    His eyes carefully drifted around the room, never lingering for too long on any one person for fear of causing offence. He hazard a guess that he was probably the youngest one here, and yet it wasn’t a fact that made him feel uncomfortable, as he continued to throwback cocktail after cocktail, feeling the alcohols warm buzz flowing through him. No age was not something he had to worry about here, in this room full of suits and guns. No what defined a man, a person in this place was the power held, and though he knew his family group was small, his position within it still granted him power that many in the room would envy. Then again, he was also dressed in the clothes of the trade, wearing them so much better than anyone else in the room and something that the patrons of the bar seemed to recognise, as he felt their burning gazes rake across his body. Eye’s that knew who exactly he was and wondered why he was here?”

    • Patience Bloom

      Hello, Amanda! Thank you for submitting your scene! I love how you really immerse us in the setting with description of the hero’s surroundings. You have lovely details with the “murmuring of voices” and “strands of jazz.” I think you can add even more, especially to statements such as “…he was the youngest one here.” How specifically does he know this? This would invite description of faces and not just his opinion. You do establish the hero as an astute observer as he assesses the scene.

      What I would suggest is to quicken the pace just a bit. It’s one thing to set the scene, but you also have to keep the story moving with some action—though I do realize this is a challenge about the five senses. And one last tip is to do another proofread since there were a few typos in this scene (I can’t help but be picky!). This was a pleasure to read, a compelling character study, and I wish you much success with this story.

  4. REGINA YARBROUGH

    She cleared her throat, wanting to dispel the tension creeping upon them.
    “You were saying?” The hitch in her voice gave away what she was feeling.
    “Um, I was going to suggest, we go to Grande Riviere on Monday. Make a day of it, if you feel up to it of course. What you say?”
    She stopped breathing, hiding shaking hands by submerging them in sudsy dish-water. “What about Lissy?”
    He studied her carefully. “She can spend the day with her grandparents. And Tanty Diti has agreed to stay on until we get back. Keep her eyes on things if you agree to the trip.”
    “Why do I get the sense you don’t trust them.” She shot a quick glance in his direction.
    “Because I don’t,” he didn’t pull any punches as he confirmed her suspicions. “They make all the right noises about wanting to take care of her but far as I can tell, they’ve make no effort to bond with her. The few times Mitch has held her, I’ve had to force her on him. Alyssa needs to know she’s loved.”
    “And you think they don’t.”
    He nodded. “I’m not sure what game they’re playing but I’m willing to bet good money it has nothing to do with what’s in Alyssa’s best interest.”
    “Can they get custody?” She asked.
    He shook his head. “It’s might not be a clear cut yes or no, but my sister had legal papers drawn up and she’s left evidence that Eddie abused her and his parents lied and shielded him instead of making him accountable. And their age may not work in their favor… that and their lack if financial stability.” He breathed out heavily and leaned against the cupboard. “Kavita also made sure Alyssa has dual citizenship, all things in my favor.” He said it like talking about his sister was easy, but his voice said otherwise.
    “Mano,” she breathed, a hint of a breath, placing her hand, soft and cool from washing dishes on his arm. She caressed his arm, it was meant to be a comforting touch, but when his muscles coiled, tensing under her light touch, and she heard his draw a ragged breath, she withdrew her hand and stepped back.

    “You don’t have to say anything. I’ve got PI gathering information and Sohail has
    reached out to a lawyer friend of his.”
    “But what if…” she let her voice trial off, not wanting to voice her fears about Alyssa and willing to play along with him that the hitch in his voice came from him talking about Alyssa.

    He shook his head. “I really don’t believe they’ll press the issue. They act like they’re upstanding citizens in the community and would make this thing public in a heartbeat if they thought being seen as fighting for their grandchild would gain them sympathy, but trust me, they wouldn’t want their dirty laundry aired in public. I’m going to be courteous to them for as long as they remain guests under my roof, but when they leave, they leave alone.” He said, making his position on the issue clear.
    The determination in his voice told her he wasn’t the sort to give up easily. No matter what he was working toward achieving.
    She turned away, getting back to the task of washing dishes, hoping to hide her reaction to this side of him. Mano pushed away from the cupboard, walking over to where she stood, back to him. He reached and took her hand in his, working his hands over hers like he was helping her wash her hands before lifting them out of the water. He wrapped them in a dish towel.
    “I pay Tanty Diti to do this.” He whispered, emotion making his voice rough.
    “But she’s not here right now is she?”
    “Granted,” he replied, eyes laughing at her.
    “She looked after Lissy all day, and she’s going to do it again, as late as necessary on Monday.”
    He grinned and mockingly saluted her before walking away.

    Mano glanced over at Jasminda who sat leather seat reclined all the way back, sunglasses set firmly in place, hat pulled low and wondered if she was pretending to be asleep so she would have to speak to him or if something else was going on. He almost couldn’t believe the gorgeous woman sitting in the passenger seat of his car, looking for all the world like she belonged had agreed to spend the day with him. He looked away concentrating on the road.
    He shook his head, trying to clear his mind and keep his attention on the road. But she was making it difficult, she smelt of vanilla, and a hint of … was that sandal wood? Whatever it was, the combination created a heady, feminine scent that was uniquely his Jas.
    His Jas. He mumbled the words under his breath. They tasted right on his tongue, like sweet, creamy strawberry ice cream on a hot day. He shot another quick look her way, her giving her a once over, appreciating the way she was decked out. Curls trapped with some kind of elastic band to keep it blowing in her face, feet encased in sneakers, white cotton t-shirt – the hint of color at the neck said it was covering up her bathing suit – and khaki shorts, which enhanced her complexion and exposed mile long legs. She looked more like a tourist than a returning native. He laughed to himself. He bet the local vendors around Grande Reverie would try to price gouge her. They would be in for a surprise when they realized she was as Trinidadian as they were. Mano reached in the glove compartment, grabbed small bottle of breath freshener and squirted some in his mouth. Not because he needed to freshened his breath but because he was hoping the burning sensation of the minty flavor would give him something else to focus on.
    “What’s on your mind?” he asked.
    Although they had decided to leave early so they could spend the entire day in Grande Reverie, they had not been able to leave until just after mid-morning. It had started off well but after half-hour of animated conversation, she had lapsed into silence.
    Jasminda turned her head to look at him, but didn’t respond. He reached over and removed her sun glasses and handed them to her, she took them without complaint. She sighed deeply and threw them on the dash.
    “You know if you wanted to change your mind about spending the day with me you can change your mind right?”
    “It’s not that, it’s… I’m missing Lele.” She admitted.
    “And?”
    “What makes you think there’s an ‘and’?”
    He shrugged. “That sigh was more about saying goodbye to Laine. Are you missing her or your life back in the city?”
    “No I’m not.”
    “Not what?”
    “Missing my life back in the city.” She answered dutifully.
    He burst out laughing, a very masculine sound that filled the same space causing her stomach to dip and stirring feelings in the pit of her stomach that was brand-new to her.
    “Oh my God, such teenaged angst,” he joked.
    Jasminda laughed. “Oh no, no, no, no, it’s been forever since I displayed that particular emotion.”
    “Then you’re asking yourself why spend all that time getting a teaching degree so you could wind up being a nanny for one child in a remote island village?” Mano pressed as he swung the car onto the coastal main road leading to the small, mostly Afro-Trinidadian, rural village community. He turned off the air conditioner and rolled down the windows, letting in the unique ocean-meet-the-forest scent only nature could produce from the cool, moist, salty air rolling in from Caribbean Sea on the right of them and the strong earthy scent from the Northern Range sloped upward in a combination of hills and mountainous formations on the left of them.
    “It’s not that either. Since I’ve been here, everything about this place has filled me with a sense of peace, a sense of belonging.” She removed her hat and stuck her hand out the window reveling in the feel of the crisp ocean breeze caressing her skin and dancing through her hair, making a mess of her curls. She felt alive, exulted.
    He chuckled. “Everything?” he asked.
    Something flickered in her eyes. “Nearly everything,” she joked, quickly assessing the situation, and catching the meaning behind his words. “I can’t help but feel my grandmother would have loved this place. It makes me sad that I couldn’t introduce her to all of this.”
    He met her gaze briefly. “It still hurts?”
    “A lot,” she admitted, averting her gaze.
    He nodded his understanding. He knew the pain of losing someone you loved, understood the way the pain of that loss crawled into the corners of your heart like cobweb, turning everything that was once brilliant and hopeful into bruised barren clouds, leaving a brackish taste in your mouth.

    • Deirdre

      Hi Regina! Good use of body language and voice to convey emotion. I particularly like how your heroine hides her trembling hands in the dishwater, and turns away from the hero towards her task when she wants to hide her emotions.
      One suggestion would be to make sure that once you’ve selected the point of view of the scene, stick with it and focus on the sensations that person is experiencing, to make the scene feel more immediate. Your second scene, for example, starts out from Mano’s POV (he’s looking at Jas, he opens the car window and smells the air), but slides into Jas’s viewpoint (she reveled in the feel of the breeze, she felt alive). In this instance, having Jas remove her hat, stick her hand out the window, and perhaps close her eyes, and removing the phrases about her “reveling in the feel” of the breeze or feeling alive, would give us all the information we need about her feelings and keep the POV consistent.
      Thanks for sharing your writing with us!

  5. Fiona Marsden

    The fresh air filled her nostrils with a salty tang, driving out the sour smell of disillusionment. Ros tightened her grip on the rail, relishing the cold bite of metal against her palm. The full moon traced a broad path across the water, silver satin, rumpled by the motion of the swell. The slap of waves against the hull of the ship beat out a rhythmic counterpoint to the thud of her heart, slowing now in the peace of the empty deck.
    The whisper of rope soled shoes on the timber hardly impinged but she tensed all the same. Nico. Even without the height of him, silhouetted against the lights from the saloon, she would recognise him. Her body reacted instinctively, somehow reading his presence before she turned to confirm it.
    “You don’t need to babysit me. I’m fine.”
    “Perhaps I want to enjoy the night air on deck. Your company is a bonus.”
    Ros snorted. “A bonus? Hardly. Go back to your little playmate. I don’t need you.” A lie and not a very good one. His chuckle lit a warm glow in her chest. She dragged the scene inside into the forefront of her mind to extinguish it. Nico and Clare, kissing. It had to be her sister. The one person she couldn’t fight. Shivering, she backed away, stumbling over a coil of rope. The abrasive scrape against her ankle wasn’t nearly as painful as the knowledge that once again, she’d allowed Nico to take possession of her already bruised heart.

  6. margie s

    She found him, eyes closed, stretched out by an open window, basking in yellow bars of sunlight, soaking up the sound of seagulls, soft waves and distant burble of children playing on the beach. Fragrant scents from the sea and the rose garden below swirled all around him, filtering through his loose cotton shirt. A sudden swell of desire blossomed in her chest. She pulled in a deep breath and held it, not wanting the headiness of him to escape. She smiled inside…

    • Deirdre

      Hi Margie! Very nice physical details here! I was able to conjure the scene very vividly!
      This scene could be made more immediate by making the POV clearer. For example, how does the heroine know the hero is “soaking up the sound of seagulls”? And the “fragrant scents . . .swirled all around him” makes it seem like he is experiencing the scents. The fragrant air, and the way the wind catches the hero’s shirt, arouses the heroine’s desire – you want the reader to feel that, not merely observe it. Solidifying the point of view will help accomplish this.
      Thanks so much for sharing your writing with us!

  7. Kathryn

    The address was thirty blocks away, a five minute ride on the subway or a longish walk in the heat of a Los Angeles afternoon. No one walked anywhere in the city of Angels, but the penny saved meant she would eat tonight. Sachiko had a couple of hours to kill before her appointment and being alone might calm the fluttering of her heart. She memorized the directions, two lefts and turn right at fifth, simple except that she had not counted on a freeway cutting across Hill Street to disorient her.
    She tripped on the broken curb. Raw sewage clogged her nose and something rancid clung to her hands. Any second now, bright red blood from her knee would seep into her thin shoes. The publicity shots her agent sent in showed a pretty brunette, a moment ago, she looked like that girl, only better, but there was no way that she looked like that now. The director would send her off stage if she turned up looking like this.
    The hand taking her arm was firm.
    “You hurt yourself.”
    She was determined not to cry, anything but that.
    “If you could help me find a public washroom.”
    “My friend has an apartment near.”
    If this was the story that her mother had told her, she had neglected to mention that the big bad wolf had grey eyes that darkened to slate when he looked at her, or that the smooth of his suit clung to him in ways that might distract her from her goal.
    “Take my handkerchief, you have cut your lip,” his hand touched her.
    She could taste a metallic taste that made her want to vomit.
    “I have to be at the Orpheum theatre at three o’clock.”
    There was nothing to do except follow him. The audition would not wait.
    Her voice filled the theatre. The lines convinced her that she could be an actor.
    Tomorrow, she would hear whether she would get the part.
    The actors chattered around her, making plans for the evening.
    “Want to come eat with us?”
    She shook her head, “broke.”
    “Enough to get by,” she added seeing a look of concern come over the face of a tall red head.
    “Come if you want, I’ve been there.”
    “Thanks, no.”
    Her purse was safe in the green room, but the wallet was empty. In its place was an engraved card with a single telephone number.
    “Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?” she asked aloud. Or was he the big, good wolf, after all?

    • Deirdre

      Nice opening, Kathryn! I really felt the grittiness of the LA streets, and the pain and stress of your heroine. (I even imagined that it was hot – maybe because it’s LA and you mentioned how long it would take the heroine to walk to her audition.)
      We often ask authors to “show, don’t tell,” but sometimes a little exposition is needed. I was a bit confused about how the heroine got to her audition, and whether she had gone to the hero’s friend’s apartment first. Compared to the vivid opening, the audition scene felt rushed.
      Sounds like an intriguing story – thanks for participating in our writing challenge!

  8. Jan VanEngen

    Putting in two parts because it’s long 1/2

    Go and enjoy yourself, they had said. Have the best time of your life, they had said. Then why did she feel like pheasant under glass? She placed on a smile as the waiter appeared with a bottle of Shiraz that he poured a small amount into a glass, just an inch or so, not enough to wet one’s whistle. She kept looking at it, hoping to get some more. Perhaps she had to pour the rest himself, if so, why was he still standing there holding the bottle, waiting. Waiting for what?
    “Madam?” The waiter stayed where he was, white napkin over his arm, bottle still not moving towards her glass. The urge to snatch it was growing.
    “Oh, I am so sorry,” Startled, she jerked around as her seat moved and looked up into dark, intense eyes that made her heart catch as did her breath. Also he leaned in towards her, crowding in her space, his smoky, woody, spicy aroma lingered around him that made her head spin. Only aware of him, this stranger who had blown in, out of nowhere, and he was speaking softly to her. His hand clamped onto the back of her seat. His built and male perfection in a dark suit overwhelmed her. “You’re supposed to taste the wine to make sure it’s not corked,” he barely whispered, then straightened. “Please forgive my clumsy feet.”
    Breathless, she laid a hand on her racing heart. “Oh, of course,” she choked as her pulse throbbed like mad, shifting the chair in closer. “No, all my fault, probably had the chair out too far.”
    Dark warm eyes swept over her flushed face that her girly parts went all peculiar and tightened, then fluttered all over the place. “I hope I didn’t break anything.”
    “Not at all, mademoiselle. May I?” She nodded as he straightened, towering over her, waved at the waiter and examined the bottle. “So inferior, please bring a Château Pétrus 2004 Pomerol and make sure it is charged to me.”
    “Of course.” The waiter walked away with the wine without even asking for his name or table. Obviously known by the hotel.
    “May I?” The stranger waved a hand over a spare chair. Numbly she nodded. “One as lovely as you shouldn’t be eating alone.”
    Which should have sounded corny, yet he sounded so sincere. “Was I that obvious that I didn’t fit in here?” she asked instead. She should have stayed in her room. Everyone else had a dining partner. Not her. She was all alone. The story of her life.
    “No, not at all,” he denied, which was nice of him to say so, but was a pack of lies.
    “Oh,” colour flooded her cheeks, placing her hands on her white linen napkin covered lap, clasped tightly together.
    “Before he comes back, I would practice on that poured glass.”
    She eyed it off closely. How could one even taste anything with the minute amount? “I don’t know a damn thing about wines, especially reds. Just a suggestion from a friend.” Yes, her much wined up friend, who knew everything there is to know about wines. A walking damn encyclopedia on them.
    “Then your friend is lacking in taste,” he noted.
    Her eyes widened. “Can I tell her that?” she asked with glee. To get back at the wine snob was a dream came true. Putting Roxy in her place would be so much fun.
    “Tasting a good wine is easy, the rest is snobbery.”

    • Kathryn

      Some enchanted evening, you may meet a stranger… Great description. Made me wonder where they are – terrace in Nice by the sea and is she alone because …?

    • Jan VanEngen

      Monte Carlo and their first meeting…. rags to riches story then back to rags and with a fish out of water twist… he becomes her mentor into her new unexpected life… No family. Hiding from the media as well….

  9. Jan VanEngen

    2/2
    Crissy agreed, head bobbing up and down, her mousy hair going with it. She brushed whisks of hair from her face, still not used to new the styled, layered hair that was also wispy against her cheeks. Trust the hairdresser, she had been told and she could see what they had meant. Not even a week ago, would she be so daring as to let a hairdresser near her hair, only for a trim. This was the most daring she had ever been.
    No more fly away hair or sit up like a cockatiel’s crest, though was aware how it curved and touched the side of her rounded chin that suited her oval shaped face. Still had length, but not as long as it used to be that swamped her face as the stylist had pointed out. Change. There had been so much change in her life. Every morning she had to pinch herself, making sure she wasn’t dreaming.
    Now she had a complete stranger coming up to her, giving her advice. She was hopeless, a complete loser. A loser with lots and lots of money, but no dummy, and won’t make a target of herself. She had to get used to everything first, and give it a period, making sure it all won’t be taken away from her.
    She hadn’t even known she had an Uncle Egbert, all out of the blue. Now she was hobnobbing with the rich and famous. Well rich, she hadn’t seen any famous people. Probably faint at their feet, if she did.
    “So this is your first trip to our fair city?”
    She blinked at him. That’s right, she had this gorgeous man at her table, and she didn’t know what to do or say. “Oh, are you from here? Sorry,” she held out her hand. “Crissy from Australia.”
    He took her hand in his larger one, warmth wrapping around, sending tingling shooting up her arm, hairs standing to attention. “I gathered that you were from Australia. Rashod, at your service.” Oh, yes, please, she sighed and his warmth left her as he released her hand. “However, I do have to leave. When the waiter comes back, lift up the glass, look at the colour, swirl around then sniff then take a sip. I chose a softer, gentler red. Merlot, lighter in colour, and softer on the palate.”
    “How would I know, if is corked?”
    “You would know, because it reacts with the cork. Sorry, I must join my other guests.”
    “Of course. Thank you for your kindness.” Standing, all in black, black suit, black shirt, he looked so debonair and slightly dangerous, yet his eyes were liquid warmth of brown, crowned with the thickest styled jet-black hair that she had ever seen that glistened under the above lights hanging from the high ceilings. He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth. Of course, the whole package. With a nod, he walked away, and she watched his departure with longing.
    Awareness washed through her like a tidal wave, hands clammy, and heart racing like thundering horses. Why did she suddenly feel like a cigarette, and she had never smoked in her life. Damn those classic movies she loved to watch. He was what she called having sex appeal with a capital A. But not for her. So out of her league. He was only being kind to a stranger, who was out of her depth.
    The waiter came back with a new bottle that he opened in front of her after showing her the bottle that she oohed over and nodded. He poured a small amount in the bottom of the larger red wine glass that she removed and held up towards the light admiring the colour. More of a rose than a deep red, swirled around as she lowered and breathed in that had a cigar box aroma. She brought the glass to her lips and sipped that had a velvet texture, dry layer of blackberry fruits that deepened to an exuberant fruit that add complexity, something she did enjoy that was gentle on her tongue. She reached for the other glass and took a sip that had a more robust flavour. He was correct.

    • Deirdre

      Hi Jan,
      Great choice to feature wine-tasting in a scene highlighting the five senses! You’ve described the texture, fragrance and colour of the wine – nice!
      One thing I would suggest is to read your work aloud once you’ve completed a first draft. You’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to describe the scene, and you want to make sure your sentences can be easily understood by a reader. For example, “More of a rose than a deep red, swirled around as she lowered and breathed in that had a cigar box aroma” contains some vivid images, but on its own the sentence is a little confusing. Thanks for taking on our writing challenge!

  10. Sweat was running down my temples. I hadn’t shifted in over forty-eight hours and the aggression and tension were building up. I was hyperaware of everything; the occasional scamper of small creatures, the tang of gun oil, the heavy night air, the grip of my hands on the rifle with my index finger laying against the trigger guard. I couldn’t let myself become distracted, I was positioned up wind, so I could get a scent from the building I had as my observation target.

    I looked though the scope and tried not to squint. There was nothing to see except the old buildings we were using as the enemy base.

    Keoring had something planned. Sooner or later something or someone would be coming out of that building to attack us. I had to be alert and react to that threat. Fatigue gnawed at me and I was glad we weren’t using live rounds. I was getting punchy and I didn’t want to make a mistake.

    Anger was my friend, I used it to keep awake and for the most part it was working. The rest of the shifters from our pack answered to me as their supervisor and no way in hell was I going to lose face in front of them by falling asleep. Just thinking about my reaction to our instructor was enough.

    It had grown quiet now in the wee.The forested area was dry from the stage two drought the Cowichan Valley was experiencing. Even with the bush this dry, I didn’t hear a sound as Keoring approached me from my right flank. I hardly got a whisper of a scent but he was coming. I frowned, I sensed him moving toward me too. Why this was the case confused me but I had to ignore it.

    I was hyperaware of Keoring too, but that was no doubt from rolling around naked with him two days earlier. He may have won that round but I was determined to win this one. At least I could use that encounter to my advantage. I knew his musky scent.

    I relaxed and concentrated on the delapitated wooden building. I knew this is when it’s going to happen. I split my attention between the two targets. One would no doubt erupt in some kind of explosion and ruin my night sight. The other was making my heart beat a bit faster and breathing wanted to accelerate, I was aroused by him stalking me. My wolf wanted to come out to play but I had to resist and I clamped down on my control.

    Seconds ticked by and just as I felt him touch me, the front door of the building burst open. Six figure all dressed in black spilled out. I slipped my index finger over the trigger and squeezed off three shots paused for my targets to spread out and squeezed off three more.

    As the crack of my rifle reverberated around the clearing I spoke. “Get your hand off my ass,Koering,” I said between clenched teeth.

    • Deirdre

      Yvonne, you’ve done a great job bringing your scene to life by incorporating physical details and you’ve also worked in backstory so the reader has insight into the characters and situation. Nicely done!
      One thing I would suggest is to take a look for clichés and filter phrases, and eliminate them where you can. For example, just including details such as “the tang of gun oil” and “the scamper of small creatures” removes the need for the phrase “I was hyperaware of everything.” And “fatigue gnawed at me” doesn’t convey as much meaning as describing your heroine’s physical and emotional state. How does her tired and stiff body feel? How does fatigue distract her focus or make her more nervous? Removing filter phrases and overused metaphors will tighten the pacing of your scene and sharpen the focus on the physical details you’ve evoked so well. Well done!

  11. Paulette Baker

    Getting out of the cooled taxi, Mira slammed the door. Anger radiated from her like a cloak. With dark brown eyes filling with tears AGAIN, she began pulling her rolling suitcase behind her as she squared her bare shoulders and began the trek toward the huge double glass doors. She stood for a moment and took in the bee buzzing close by, felt the warmth of the early Fall sun, and looked back as if she expected someone to be behind her. Nope, she was all on her own.

    Angerly she pulled the door open and walked into an unbelievable lobby. Taking a moment to let her eyes become adjusted to the dimness, Mira quietly spoke a short prayer; “Lord, give me strength. I know even through my anger, You are with me.” Walking on what looked like a stone walkway, Mira looked all around her. It was unbelievable! The lobby looked, sounded and smelled as if she was still outside. There was even a babbling brook of blue water. “Well Toto, you ain’t in Kansas anymore”

  12. Lakisha friday

    It had been raining off and on at the beach then the sun came out to play for a spell then it was chased away by angry gray clouds determined to make light disappear and bring about a storm. Marcella felt the way the sky looked if not more so as she walked back to her hotel room. Sand clinging to her feet as if begging her to stay. Once night had fallen upon the brightly lit city and fewer and fewer sand walkers were about Marcella opens the balcony door overlooking the sea. The sounds and sights didn’t bring joy like it had in the past. Everything has changed and maybe not for the better. She couldn’t, wouldn’t get over him. Not by a mile or many oceans apart. She remembered how loving and caring her husband had been. Squinting she could barley make out a couple sitting on the sand. They must be so in love. Love sucks! She thought hoping the couple below could read her mind. Its painful and it destroys all that you’ve worked so hard for only to see it burn like an ungrateful volcano after a sacrifice has been made.
    You lied! You hear me! You lied to me! You told you’d never leave me! That no matter what happens you’d come home to me! A shaky finger points accusingly at the ocean. You did this to me! The moon and the murky skies seemed to be working in cahoots to hide the ocean shielding it from her ranting of massive proportions.
    Bring him back to me. Marcella pleaded to the ocean gods. I need him back. There was no reply as the waves bathed the earth but never getting cleaned. She sat down staring out into nothing. The wind blows her hair about her face gently trying to calm her down. In the back she heard the faint muffle of a soft sweet voice crying out to her.
    Marcella picks up her baby girl and cuddles her. The baby fell back to sleep. Marcella sat there holding her child. A flash of lightening startled her and she held her child ever so close. Something below caught her eye. A dark figure stands on a building site below looking up at her. She opens the sliding glass door after putting her baby down on the couch. The wind has grown unusually cooler and she can still see the figure standing there.
    I am here. The figure said and before Marcella could move away from the balcony the figure disappeared and she felt a soft caress across her lips and his voice said, I am here. I told you no matter what, I would never leave you. Her breath caught in her throat.
    You came back. She whispered as she sat down on the floor of the balcony.
    And I’m taking you with me! Marcella screamed as she feet herself being lifted above the balcony.

  13. Ruby Mae O'Dell

    Beep……..beep……..beep…….. The sound ringing in her ears, causing the hammers that was hitting her head to pound ten times harder with every beep. Her hand instinctively going to the back of her head where the pain originated, her fingers brushing against the rough bandage
    stuck there.
    What happened? Where was she? The aroma of antiseptics teased her nose, gently she forced her eyes open.
    The sight of the hospital room awoke her fully. Why was she in the hospital? Wait, where was her twins? All other thoughts vanishing from her
    mind, she sat straight up and swung her feet over the side of the bed. Large hands grabbed her shoulders, stopping her from standing up. The
    grasp was firm but gentle, still she fought, “Let me go! I have to go check on my twins!”
    “Shh, take it easy Shayla. Everything is okay, lay back down.” The baritone voice, warm and familiar, froze her on her bed. Her mind must
    be playing tricks on her, no way that voice belonged to ‘him’. She whipped her head around, regretting the movement instantly, she squeezed
    her eyes tightly shut as dizziness and nausea engulfed her. When she finally opened her eyes she found herself staring into the most
    beautiful, sparkling, dark blue eyes she had ever seen, the very same eyes she thought she would never see again.
    “Josiah? What are you…..?” She couldn’t seem to force her voice work more than that. She couldn’t believe he was here, his eyes staring
    back at her for the first time in four years, it was almost as if time had stood still.
    He hadn’t changed much, if anything he was more handsome than she remembered. He still had that thick, wavy, jet black hair, trimmed just like a gentleman, his strong six foot four frame,
    filling the leather recliner by her bed, his beard slightly longer than she remembered giving him that rugged look, that only added to his
    appeal.
    ‘What are you doing? He left you remember? He didn’t even say goodbye, just vanished without as much as a note explaining his absence’. That thought mentally shaking her, allowing her to find her voice again, “I have to pick up my twins from school.”
    Swinging her legs back over the bed, her feet gently brushed the cold hospital floor before being gently pulled back on the bed. “Just take
    it easy Shayla. Becky is picking them up and taking them out to eat. Everything is taken care of, you need to relax and focus on getting better.
    The doctor said you have a concussion and need observation.”
    Her hand went to the back of her head out of reflex, to the bandage located there. “What happened?”
    “The best Isaac and I could figure, you walked in on a robbery and the thief hit you from behind with a vase. You don’t remember
    anything?”
    “The last thing I remember is driving to my shop after dropping the twins off at the elementary school.” she messaged tiny circles at her temples willing herself to remember. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get her brain to think of anything else besides Josiah Sawyer sitting here beside her.