Thursday, February 11, 2010


                One thing that can be pretty tricky when you’re writing is your descriptions of the different people, places, and other random things that come up in your story. Description can be good but can you go too far?
                I think that most authors usually go too far with their descriptions and some don’t describe anything at all. Descriptions are for the reader to get a good understanding of the person or place but will, in the end, make the decision of what they want it/them to look like.
                Too many authors use metaphors and similes heartlessly. While sometimes it can be helpful to compare the color of the girl’s hair or the texture of the clothing to something that may be more recognizable, it can be incredibly distracting. Take this for example:
                “Candice stood silently and thoughtfully by the quiet blue lake that was so still, it looked like glass. Her bright blonde hair shone like the golden sun as it danced around her face like thin tree branches swaying in the wind…”
                Too much information!
                Something like this would be better:
                “Thoughts danced around in Candice’s head as she stood by the lake, just as her hair danced around in the roaring wind around her…”
                Descriptions can make or break your story and there’s a fine line between a good description and a bad one. Personally, I think a description should flow poetically, instead of breaking the scene down, word by word. Here is a description of one of my characters from a story I wrote a few months ago:
                “Beside me was a tall, gangly boy with shoulder-length, silvery black hair and a mysterious smile. He was wearing pin stripe pants, a white t-shirt, and a top hat on his silvery head. He beamed at me, revealing his unnaturally shiny white teeth.”
                That’s all the description I ever really give about this character so the reader can use this information to create an idea of him in their heads.
                Here are a few clichés you want to stay away from when you’re describing characters:
                “His hair was golden like the sun.”
                “She was tall with a slender frame.”
                But while some descriptions give too much information, one thing that I can’t stand is when the author gives absolutely not description at all, this can leave the reader feeling distant because the character is not relatable. The character’s looks and personality shouldn’t be spelled out for the reader, it should be hinted at but not completely uncovered. The real description of the character is their development as a person throughout the story instead of an overview of their entire character. Like I’ve said before, character development can be tricky but, I think, it is the most important part in a story.
                And as far as describing other things like places or objects, take a little bit of time to describe them but don’t write a whole paragraph describing a leaf like it is some books.
                *cough*The Lord of the Rings *cough*
                Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but in these days, most people have pretty good imaginations because of TV, the internet, etc. They just don’t know how to use them. As the author, you can help the reader use their imagination.
                Say you’re describing a place…let’s say a dark cavern…don’t write something boring like this:
                “Orville walked through the dark, dank cavern which was scary because dangerous creatures lived in it.”
                That is much too simple and extremely boring. Instead, you should try describing the scene indirectly like this:
                “As Orville walked through the cave, his heart was beating loudly in his chest, so loud, in fact, he had begun to convince himself that it would echo off the dark walls and would be heard deep within the cavern, waking up the mysterious creatures that were sleeping in its depths.”
                You can tell the story while describing the scene, which is less noticeable, yet more effective. Descriptions shouldn’t be very noticeable, they shouldn’t stand out. They should help the reader but not distract them.
                To read a great guide from about clichés and descriptions on fiction writing, click here.
                But what about you? Do you like a lot of descriptions or do you like to use your imagination?

william shakespeare
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Lizzy said...

I love that poster on the bottom of the post. Anyway, I totally agree. Over-descriptions annoy me so much. In fact, I prefer almost none to too much, though you should always be in the middle. It's funny with my characters- some of them are very detailed in my head. However, some I can't really see well, in fact to where I can't really see the face. So I sort of describe what I know is there. Anyone who reads my story then will probably have a better image of certain characters than I do. Is that how it is with you?

Lyssa said...

Yeah, I never have a very good idea of what I want my characters to look like exactly, I like to let the reader decide. I know the basic stuff like what there hair color is, how tall they are, and what their favorite ice cream flavor is. You know, the important stuff. ;)