Monday, May 7, 2012

Describe it for me

So I'm still working on reading Stephen King's ON WRITING in between other projects (We finally have a working toilet in our basement. Yay!) I've found some good advice about description.  Here are some of my favorites.

*I don't need to give you a pimple-by-pimple, skirt-by-skirt rundown.  We all remember one or more high school losers, after all; if I describe mine, it freezes out yours, and I lose a little bit of the bond of understanding I want to forge between us.  Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's.


*I think Locale and texture are much more important to the reader's sense of actually being in the story than any physical description of the players.


*It's as easy to overdescribe as to underdescribe.

*What I actually want to do is open all my senses.  (not just sight)


*It's also important to remember it's not about the setting, anyway--it's about the story, and it's always about the story.  It will not behoove me or you to wander off into thickets of description just because it would be easy to do.  


This last one is good. I've seen that a lot in beginning writers, where they put the story on hold to describe each and every detail of the girls outfit.  Sometimes clothing details are important, I'm not arguing that.  But they shouldn't just be listed while the reader wonders when the story will start again.  They need to be woven into the action and dialogue so that it's organic. 

Personally I tend to under-describe. That's why, well, one reason why, my drafts generally get longer as I go.  Early readers say they don't get an idea of place or time and I have to add in more details.  What about you?  How do you work description?  Do you tend to over or under-describe?



15 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, I want to read this book SO BAD NOW! Great little points. And I tend to under-describe too... where I need to go back and add quite a bit of filler! Loved this post. :D

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    1. Thanks, it's a good book, I'm learning and being reminded of a lot. And I love the way he thinks/it's organized. I seem to get more out of it than the other books I've read. Maybe I'm just at a point where I'm ready to learn more.

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  2. All of this is really good advice! I particularly liked that last quote. I'm always put off by description of scenery. I don't mind a little bit just so I know where I am and what the character is working with, but when the description takes up entire chapters I get really irritated. Great post!

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    1. Exactly, all description should be worked in rather than dumped on us.

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  3. Oh, I *love* this book! I'm reading THE ARTIST'S WAY now and it's a keeper, too. I love my inspirational shelf--BIRD BY BIRD, THE WAR OF ART, ON WRITING, and now THE ARTIST'S WAY.
    Here's to anything that spurs us on.

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    1. BIRD BY BIRD is on my list to read, so is THE WAR OF ART. I've read some others but so far ON WRITING is my favorite.

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  4. I learned so much about proper setting description from Molly O'Neil at Storymakers this year. I totally got it. I dug it. Now, I just have to do it!

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    1. Doing it is so much harder. But the more we practice the easier it will become.

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  5. I need to do better with my descriptions too. They are so wonderful when done right. I really need to get this book. I've heard wonderful tings about it!

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    1. I would highly recommend ON WRITING! Put in on your birthday/Christmas/just want to surprise you/mother's day lists.

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  6. Mmmmmm. These are good. I'm an under-describer at first. Spitting out the story is what I concentrate on and then, all the rest.

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  7. I like these tid-bits of advice. I should probably read this book. But that will have to be in the future. I think I am on the fence on this one. It depends on the scene. If it needs more description, I'll put it in there. If not then I don't. *shrugs* With my last revision of my first book, I added a ton more descriptions for showing not telling. It made the book much better in my opinion. Let's just see what the agent thinks. haha

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    1. Sometimes the story does call for more description. He really emphasizes that we should listen to the story and do what we need to keep it moving forward.

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  8. Oh! I have the exact same problem as you. You should see the number of places in my current draft where it says things like "add description of market" "but where are they?" "add smells, sounds" "need more of surroundings"!

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