Concrete Detail

Erika Hayes, Author – Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!


Photo Credit: Erika Hayes

Every human loves a story.  I was in a webinar the other day and one of the participates asked, “Where can I get ideas for stories?”  That struck me as odd.  Every experience one has is a story.  When in college and I took a class on storytelling I learned that if we pay attention to our surroundings and try to take mental snips of things we see that intrigue us we can make stories from those images.  Being that I am never far from a camera I took that to heart and instead of a mental image I take actual images and use them to make stories.

The thing about visual writing prompts is that they spark different stories for different people.  Take a look at the image, and tell the story that comes to you.  Turn off the inner critic and just write for a few minutes.  What do you see, what textures stand out, why?  Do they spark a memory?  Can you tell the story of the people that once used this old barn?  What did they do? What were they like? What happened here to make it become dilapidated? Was there something sinister that occurred there?  Or was it just a home for animals?  Were the animals special?  How?  Was a prize-winning racehorse once housed in this very barn?  You get the idea.


What Happened to Herman Nelson? 

By: Erika Hayes

“I heard he was deranged,” Millie whispered as she swat a mosquito on her neck.  

“I heard he would kill things and stuff them with leaves in the barn.”  Heather grabbed Millie’ s arm and opened her eyes wide. “I heard from Billy, that he stuffed his wife before he strung her up.”

“Billy Mitchell don’t know nothing at all. He sees his wife’s ghost  and she haunting him for killing her and he got deranged from it, that’s what my momma said.” Millie’s hand was on her hip but she kept her voice low.  

The two girls stood at the edge of the woods as the light purple sky moved deeper into the night. “Let’s go, maybe we can see her ghost.” Millie pulled Heather by the arm.  

The two girls held onto each other and moved carefully toward the dirty window of the weathered barn.

The rumors of Herman’s barn had grown from haunted by the ghost of his dead wife to a place he tortured all kinds of defenseless animals. 

The truth wasn’t that simple.  Herman was a man of little need.  After finding his wife twisting with a red cord about her neck hanging from the hayloft of his barn, he would sit on his porch, smoke his pipe every evening, rocking in his chair and stare at the barn.  

The police said her death was self-inflicted, but the people of Harley questioned the findings. Herman had once been a warm, happy-go-lucky man that carried butterscotch in his pocket for the children he would meet.  He taught the boy’s Sunday School class faithfully for many years and he never met a stranger.  He was known for an easy conversation and a generous wallet.  He could be counted on to volunteer when there was any work to be done.  

Before Marion died, Herman closed himself up in his barn for a few weeks and only came out to eat and finally retire for the evening.  Marion would knock on the big door and call out his name, he never answered.  She would press her ear to the barn door listening for any sound.  She heard his heavy boots scrap the floor as he paced and carried on a conversation with himself.  She would strain to hear the content but never could make it out. 

Then two days before her death, a neighbor reported seeing Herman walking through the field with a birdhouse on a large pole over his shoulder.  When asked, Herman said he built the birdhouse for the newly widowed Lorette Kline. and walked on.

Ms. Kline was kind but refused the gift saying it was too painful.  Her recently deceased husband, Mack, had been an avid bird watcher, like Herman’s own wife, Marion.  She thanked Herman and shut the door. 

Later, Herman was seen by his neighbor leaning the birdhouse against the barn before disappearing again into his barn.  Herman’s wife worried fiercely for her husband, he seemed to be obsessed with the death of his friend Mack.  In the month before her death, she reported to a woman at Squiggle’s grocery that he mumbled Mack’s name in his sleep and had stopped speaking to her altogether.  He just ate his meals then returned to the barn mumbling nonsense.  

At the county fair,  the night of her death, some children reported coming up on Herman and Marion in a spat.  He had gripped her arm tightly and was pulling her toward the exit.  He growled at them as they pushed past.  One child, William, said he never had been afraid of his former Sunday School teacher, but that night he had a look of the devil in his eyes, and through clenched teeth spoke only the name Mack Klien over and over again.  The police discounted what the child said because rumors were still running wild about the sudden death of Mack Klein. 

Herman saw the girls sneaking toward the back of his barn and smiled.  He knew the stories.  He knew the curious minds of children. He stood from his perch on the porch and carefully came around that backside of the barn.  Millie and Heather were just about to peek into the big dirty window.  He coughed, then a loud snap of a breaking stick sent Millie and Heather shrieking toward the deep woods from where they had slunk only a moment before. Herman chuckled and returned to his porch, lit his pipe and slowly rocked his chair back and forth and watched the barn.  He was a simple man after all. 


This story is raw, unedited and what I saw from the image.  This photo was taken in Ohio on a recent trip for a family event.


We are going to dive into our final post on commonly misused words.  I hope this week you have been able to bookmark some of those words that are troublesome for you. Here we go.

Which vs. That

That is used when the information in the sentence is vital to the meaning of the sentence.

Example: The children that are naughty will go to their room.

This sentence states that children that are being naughty will go to their room.

Which is used when the information is not essential to the sentence. The use of which also is seen in companionship with two commas.

Example:  The children, which are naughty, will go to their room.

The fact that the children are naughty in this example could be omitted and the sentence will still be true.  The children will go to their room.

The Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty, suggest this tip to recall the proper usage of these words.  “You can kick the witches out. (in this case whiches).”  That being said, a sentence that has additional non-essential information enclosed by commas will utilize the word which.

Between, Among, Amid

Between is used when there are clearly distinct options.

Example: She got to choose between peanut butter chocolate and mint chip ice cream.

Among is used when the options are not clearly defined.

Example: She got to choose among five kinds of ice cream.

Amid is used to signify something that can’t be counted.

Example:  The front-runner shook hands and kissed babies amid the large gathering of supporters.


Hello there my friends, we are getting through some of the hard words this week.  Regarding yesterday’s post, I hope you were affected by the material. (haha- see what I did there?) Anyway, let’s get to today’s words, as we have a lot to cover!

Altogether vs. All together

All together means that there is a group of individuals together. All of us together.

Example:  We gathered all together in the garden.

Altogether is an adverb which means entirely.

Example:  He opened the test booklet and read the questions he was altogether confused.

Elicit vs. Illicit

Elicit is a verb that means to draw out or evoke.

Example: His critique elicited a negative reaction from the group members.

Illicit is an adjective which means illegal.

Example:  He was involved in illicit drug dealing when he was arrested.

NOTE: One way to remember these two is illicit and illegal both begin with “ill”. 

Farther vs. Further

While often seen used interchangeably, and while both can be used as an adjective or an adverb, they are not the same words.

Farther is a physical distance, a distance that has been measured.

Example as an adverb is when the action results in a greater distance:  He ran farther then I thought he would.

Example as an adjective is when the object is more distant than the other:  The Starbucks is farther than Dutch Bros.

Further is a greater degree of something.

Example as an adverb is to express a relationship to a place or time, something in a greater degree or in addition to something:  The two decided they needed further research before publishing the findings.

Example as an adjective will describe a distance or something that is beyond or additional:  The congressman gave no further comments on the findings of the inquiry.

Example as a verb is an action of helping something forward: How can we further out media presence?

NOTE: One way to remember which to use, is the word FAR is a distance, and when to use the word “farther” is when it has to do with distance.  Also, if you can’t replace the word “further” with more or additional you are probably using the wrong word. 

Log in vs Login

These are rather new, so let’s nip this confusion in the bud.

Log in with a space between the words is used when it is a verb it means to actively log in to something.

Example:  I need to log in to check my email.

Login without a space between the word is used as an adjective or a noun and means the information you need to sign in (noun) or the webpage where you sign into your account (adjective)

Example as a noun: I don’t remember my login username.

Example as an adjective: I like the appearance of the login page.



Here we are on Wednesday!  More Commonly Misused Words for today.


WHO:  A subject of a pronoun.

Example:  Who is going to attend her wedding?

WHOM: An object pronoun.

Example: With whom are you going to the wedding?

NOTE:  When in doubt, try this simple trick: If you can replace the word with “he”’ or “’she,” use who. If you can replace it with “him” or “her,” use whom.

WHOSE: Possessive pronoun

Example:  Whose car is that?

WHO’S:  Is a contraction for who is

Example: Who’s going to the reunion?


YOUR:  a possessive form of “you”

Example:  Your puppy is adorable.

YOU’RE: a contraction for you are. If you can’t replace the words “you are” in your sentence it is the wrong use of you’re.

Example:  You’re not going to the party?


Oh boy, this is the one I think most people struggle with.  Even those that are good with grammar.  Let’s take a closer look.  I found a cute video on another site that was great.  I don’t want to take credit for the video so I want to be sure you know it was copied from Scribendi site.

AFFECT:  It is usually a verb.

Example:  When written well, a poem can affect anyone that reads it.

EFFECT: Usually a noun

Example:  An effect of this medication is an upset stomach.

I learned in a college course to remember this acronym for these two words. RAVEN.

Remember Affect is a Verb and Effect is a Noun

Here is the video I thought may help. Rember it is from Scribendi and can be found on their site by simply clicking here


Welcome to Tuesday’s commonly misused words. Let’s get right to the task at hand.

Then vs Than

They sound a little alike and can be difficult to remember which is correct.

THEN:  Sounds like men. There are several times one can use the word then.

  1. When referring to a time.

Example:  She bit her lip then began to laugh.

2. When telling what will happen next.

Example:  I will go to the store, then I will come home.

3. In place of the word also.

Example: She asked if I would fix her computer, and then to look at her router.

THAN:  Sounds like man. There is really only one time using the word than is correct.

  1. When comparing two things is when it is appropriate to use the word than.

Example:  Sally has more homework than I do.

They’re, Their, There

THEY’RE: This is a contraction for “they are”.

If when re-reading a sentence you can’t put in the words, they are in place,  this is the wrong usage of they’re.

Example: They’re my friends.

THEIR: Is possessive.

This use of their is used to show that someone owns it.

Example:  The red Ford is their truck.

THERE: In or at a place.

This use of there is referring to a location.

Example:  I will see you there.

Assure, Ensure, Insure

ASSURE:  Is a promise.

This word is used as a way to indicate that a promise is in place.

Example: I assure you that I will be there on time.

ENSURE: To make certain.

This form of ensure can be easily confused with assure; because a promise seems to make certain of something.  However, the use of ensure is usually used when an individual is making certain, not making a promise.

Example:  She stopped and looked around to ensure no one was listening to her phone conversation.

INSURE: to make certain especially by taking necessary measures and precautions.

This insure is to make the risk of loss transferred in exchange for payment.

Example:  They were careful to choose a good company to insure their new home.

Commonly-Misused-MondayWords are misused as often as song lyrics are messed up.  I think of the movie Bull Durham, Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) and Nuke Calvin (Tim Robbins)  seated on the team bus headed to an away game and Nuke is being guitar guy and singing,  Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding.  Nuke is butchering the song lyrics and finally when he sings, “Women get woolly”  and Crash has had it, he grabs the guitar and tells Nuke, ” Stop it.  No one gets woolly, women get weary.”  Then goes on to explain his frustration with Nuke’s wasting of his talent.

The point of this story is that as writers, we need to not get woolly.  (Just kidding).  It is important to do our best to best use the words correctly, and not waste our talent.   I have done some research into the most commonly misused words and have decided to share them all week.  Here we go!

Capitol vs. Capital

The capitol is a state or government building.   A way to remember this is to think “Oh, boy another politician.”  The “Oh,” representing the “o” in Capitol.

Capital has a few meanings.  The capital letter as in, begin sentences with a capital letter.  Another being financially related.  We need the capital to make this deal come together.  Finally, and probably the most confusing because of the other spelling.    The use of the word capital as in, the capital of the state of Arizona is the city of Phoenix.

This capital is where the misuse often happens, but if you think of Phoenix as the city of Phoenix, you may be able to remember that the capital used has no “O” but only an “I” like in “city”.

Imply vs. Infer

This one is often just a matter of knowing the meaning of the two words.

Imply is a suggestion of something.

Example:  She implied that he had directions to the party, clearly, he did not, which is why we are late.

Infer is to deduce from evidence

Example:  She inferred that he had directions to the party as she pulled the mapquest directions in his pocket.

How to Use However

However has two meanings, that depend on the use of commas.

When used at the beginning of a sentence and has no comma it means “no matter how.” Example: However difficult the task, you should enjoy the process

When used with a comma, no matter the location of the word in the sentence, it means “nevertheless”

Example: I was about to go home, however, I will stay and help you.

Nobody gets "woolly." Women get "weary."


Okay, let’s take a peek at today’s word.  Pique.

There are a lot of words that are easy to choose the wrong spelling.  Pique is one of those words.  Words like this do pique my interest because I am always trying to figure out ways to help people remember which spelling is used.  The word pique has “que” in it, which reminds me of the word question.  When one has piqued interest in something it usually leads to questions. Using little devices like this to recall which way to spell a word can be helpful to not only adults but children!

Now, Pique also means to have a sharp irritation, thus the use of peak, or peek in place of pique may apply.


Our word power today is not that interesting. (See what I did there, haha) Okay, that may have been a little childish– Okay, really,  that’s enough.

As a writer, this is an adjective that I would never want used to describe my work, or anyone’s work really. It is, however, a great word for character description.  Building our list of adjective really helps us become better writers.   Using words like jejune can help teach our readers without a lecture.  Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events books,  crafted words like this into his books. It was a joy to see how the author of those books teach kids.  If you’ve never read them, I suggest you give it a try.  Kid’s books maybe but great stories none the less.  Here’s a link to the first one.

Enjoy today’s not so jejune word.

Example of the word in use:

He breathed out slowly,  “Stop being so damn jejune Abigail. I know you’re mad at me. Just talk to me.”

The Challenge:

Write a poem, use jejune as the primary adjective for the object of your poem.

*Use either definition, but make it clear which you are using.


This word is a great word for writers.  It could apply to a protagonist or an antagonist.  While this word is not as uncommon as some of the others we have shared, it’s a word that is only in the top 30% of popularity.

It is remarkable, that a single word can inspire so much creativity.

This word was made popular from Le Misanthrope a comedy by Moliere. First performed in June of 1666  at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, Paris by the King’s Player.  A more modern version of this play has been made called The Grouch (Murchison).

More famous misanthropes of literature include:

  • Charles Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Alceste from Le Misanthrope
  • Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye
  • Miss Havisham from Great Expectations
  • Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit

Example of the Word used:

The man was more than grumpy, he was completely misanthropic.

The Challenge:

Write a short character sketch of a female misanthrope.



I can’t even tell you how much I love the game of Scrabble! It is the ONLY game that I can actually beat both my son and husband.  It is usually my use of high letter words like ones that have a “Q” in it.  That is why I love to discover and learn words beginning with any of the high point letters.

In addition to this fun word being a high point word, it also has some interesting roots.  While researching this word I found this interesting tidbit out:

“If you guessed that quixotic has something to do with Don Quixote, you’re absolutely right. The hero of the 17th-century Spanish novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (by Miguel de Cervantes) didn’t change the world by tilting at windmills, but he did leave a linguistic legacy in English. The adjective quixotic is based on his name and has been used to describe unrealistic idealists since at least the early 18th century. The novel has given English other words as well. Dulcinea, the name of Quixote’s beloved, has come to mean mistress or sweetheart, and rosinante, which is sometimes used to refer to an old, broken-down horse, comes from the name of the hero’s less-than-gallant steed.”  


As a writer always looking for fun ways to describe our character’s personality, this adjective would perfect for that sappy, lovesick character.

The word used in a sentence:

He had quixotic dreams about the future with Sarah.

The Challenge:

Try using this word as a description for an ANTAGONIST.  That can be a little more a stretch.