For me all it takes is a certain turn of phrase. It might be that the choice of words is shockingly original, or humorous, or beautifully cadentic* but more often than not it will be down to the image painted.
…she watched as black cinders showered, like so many dead moths…
This snippet stopped me dead in my tracks and haunted me for months. It still does. It’s so damn powerful. The piece from which it is lifted was crafted by recently contracted, Shehanne Moore, writer of romantic historicals, and I thank her for that very special moment when, as a self-confessed speed-reader, I skidded to a halt, re-read the line (many times) and thought…bugger me, I want to be able to write like that.
I’ve taken the liberty (with Shehanne’s permission) of including a fuller extract here, but for me, it all comes down to that single sublime image. Fury (the heroine) has a contract for Flint (the hero) to sign.
“After all, I wouldn’t like to make it difficult for you, or suffer more in your embrace than necessary. No.” She smiled and tilted her jaw. “Now, why don’t you just make your mark on the paper? So we can...how was it you put it again...get to it?” she said, tossing him the pen.
He caught it and stared, for a long brittle moment. Then with an abrupt movement he tossed it on the floor, where it clattered and rolled, blobbing ink across the tiles. Wordlessly he walked to the end of the dressing table and held the paper in the candle flame. Flames came from it and she watched as black cinders showered, like so many dead moths, onto the marble surface of the table.
“What....what do you think you’re doing?” she gasped,
“What you said, Fury. Making my mark. Now, that’s your terms. Here’s mine.”
*Cadentic is one of those words loathed by Spellcheck because I’ve made it up. Basically on my planet, it means the beat of a pulse or rhythm.