A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Description - what's too much, too little, just enough

For all of my writer readers, you may have realized I have a love affair with Kristen Lamb's blog. Seriously, you need to follow her blog and on Facebook. I don't remember if she has a Twitter account or not, but if she does you need to follow her there too. She's an amazing woman. Her Facebook feed is full of her more personal life. It lets you get to know the woman. Her blog is full of writing advice and lets you get to know the author/editor.

Today's post is about description. This is something I have trouble with. Am I giving too much? Am I giving too little? What's my middle ground? Kristen has some great advice for us and I thought I'd share the highlights.

She talks about avoiding description like you'd give to a police sketch artist. As she puts it, “...a good writer is a wordsmith and we should be able to describe characters better than someone who's been on the wrong end of a purse snatching.” Anyone can do this kind of description. It gives you an idea of what someone or something looks like, but it doesn't tell you anything about the person/place. There's no emotional attachment.

The info dump description. I am so guilty of that one. I give every little detail of the setting and the appearance of the people. We don't need to give everything to them. We do need to leave stuff up to imagination.

Kristen gives us an idea of what makes GOOD description. “The common denominator I see in great description is it delves beyond the surface and evokes some kind of feeling.” I know that my favorite books have descriptions that make me feel as if I'm there, makes me feel like I'm living there, working there, breathing there. It makes me feel something, so I can see where she's coming from here. She has some great examples of various types of descriptions on her blog.

Then she gets into weather/setting/information without being an info dump. She gives a brilliant example of what she's talking about. The example shows how we get a description of the weather and city, but it becomes more visceral, more of an experience rather than mere description. It's brought to us through the character's backstory and feelings.

One point she brings up is the amount is still subjective. What you want to do is what you should do, within reason. If it's part of your voice, use it. Just be aware that not all readers are going to like your level of description.

Seriously, go read her blog post. Check out her examples. And while you're there, check out some of her other blog posts.

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