Genius Alchemy with Words

There is writing, and there is … the genius alchemy of turning words into something living, breathing, breathtakingly alive. It mystifies me, but Sibella Giorello has that gift. Generic words become an entrancing portal that instantly pulls readers into another reality—more real than their own. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from her just-released book The Waves Break Gray (mystery/suspense):

“The sky was that tender baby pink, as if this day was born with its own life, full of promises.”

“Across the water the mountains cupped the setting sun, as if rock alone could hold back time.”

“We stood here by her grave, the depression like an open hand, waiting for someone to drop answers into it.”

“I reached the meadow where wind combed through the brittle grass. Her grave lay open, the yellow police tape already sagging and faded. I set the shovels down and took off my pack. The wind sounded like someone asking for quiet. Sh-sh-shhh. As if the open grave was a cradle.”

“The accordion player squeezed his instrument, like my heart was in his hands.”

* Can you sense the depth of this man’s grief—and Raleigh’s own grief as she rides with him in a van?

“He walked stiffly, his posture curved forward, like a man shielding his own broken heart.”

“This empty van felt crowded with pain. Violent death was throwing down all its layers of grief. Shock, denial. Anger. Depression. Shards of it poking up without warning, like cut glass riding on a river of despair, slicing open veins only to deposit more pain. It had been seven years since my dad’s murder, and that river was still coming at me, even as well-intentioned people said things like time heals all wounds. It was a lie. With violent death—unjustified death, sudden death—time turned into a delta. Time laid down pain upon pain, until all of it hardened into bedrock, into the foundational knowledge that the world was fallen fallen fallen.”

“He turned to me, melting with sadness.”

* The powerful effect of prayer—even in another language:

“He closed his eyes and murmured words in a language I didn’t recognize. But I understood what he was saying. Prayers of gratitude—genuine gratitude—have their own four-part harmony. One part remorse for who we are. One part amazement that such goodness comes to the undeserving. And two parts joy in the receiving.”

*Can you feel the tension in this scene between Raleigh and a calloused detective?

He looked at me. His eyes were deep and dark, like the wrong end of a double-barreled shotgun.

One shotgun shell slid into the chamber of his dark eyes. “You telling me you know how to handle this case?”

The eyes chambered another shell. “Did [she] happen to tell you about …?”
I felt a chill coming.

[I said] “So he could come back to kill again.”
The eyes said ready, aim. “You don’t know that.”
“You don’t know otherwise.”
I could see fire coming next. I needed to block the shot.

I loaded my own shotgun.
“Do you ever wonder who’s really making the money off other people’s misery?”

* Raleigh’s extraordinary intuition that helps her solve “impossible” crimes:

“Crime scenes had their own atmospheric delivery system. Things beyond the facts. Above the details. Things sensed, absorbed, perceived. I kept my eyes closed until …”

I’ll let you read the rest—I promise you’ll be instantly transported into another world while reading The Waves Break Gray.

Savvy Writer Tip:

It’s a challenge to use words in new, fresh, captivating ways that instantly take readers into a world more vivid and alive than their own. Study brilliant writers to see how they evoke stunning visuals and rouse our deepest senses and emotions. Take their phrases and remove/change words to see why the writer chose that particular combination to make a powerful elixir. It’s not impossible, but it takes practice, sensitivity, and imagination. See if you can develop your own style of genius alchemy with words! 🙂