1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

A matter of being sensitive, or just conflicting genre expectations?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Mistresselysia, Oct 2, 2011.

  1. Re: description.

    I fell in love with descriptions when I read the Earths Children series.

    I had been taught to keep it short and sweet. After reading the above series I now feel that in doing so sometimes you can do a disservice to the reader.

    Jean can go on for whole chapters about the costumes of her diffrent cultures. For example: The River People.

    So while yes sometimes one can go over the top, if you do it right I don't see it as an issue.

    Ann Rice is also prone to long descriptions. In her Vampire Chronicals she went into great detail describing Claudia. :D And Louis.
  2. Mistresselysia

    Mistresselysia Scribe

    My yardstick is 'it has to earn its keep'. If it is in some way moving the story along, either in terms of plot or characterisation (and tentatively in setting, although that can be a grey area fraught with danger), then it's all good for me. If, however, it just becomes a list of characteristics or a whole page of how the leaves look for simply no other reason than the writer wants to describe leaves, then that's too much. You want to immerse your reader in your world, not drown them.
  3. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

    I think I agree with Benjamin Clayborne and Lord Darkstorm. I prefer short, neat descriptions. If there is a point to long descriptions, okay, but I certainly don't want to hear it twice.

    I guess her point was to condense it to its simplest form, whilst retaining its meaning... except that it doesn't really say the same thing to me. There are other points to sentences, other than the actions they describe, and you are dead right to call out such a weird alteration (esp. 'booming'). Her changes suck out the atmosphere, the subtle character hints, and yes, it sounds more like a list.

    It seems like a struggling critique made by someone desperate to make significant changes.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  4. DameiThiessen

    DameiThiessen Minstrel

    Fantasy is a much broader genre than many people seem to think because High Fantasy is what first comes to mind, and then LotR in turn. You don't have to write about an epic quest, a band of heroes and an evil overlord to write fantasy. In my opinion all you need for fantasy is magic, or some other-worldly principal like that, to make a clear distinction that this is not written in your everyday life.

    It can be challenging to come into a High Fantasy readership and convince them that your book about a man that meets a ghost is fantasy. But don't let the definition of High Fantasy limit your breadth of vision when you are writing fantasy in general.
  5. Shadoe

    Shadoe Sage

    Ann Rice... She's one of those authors I often skip entire pages because they just go on and on and on. I do that with Clive Cussler, the King of the Info Dump.

    That's not saying that all these authors are not good authors. Well, Clive Cussler sucks but has somehow managed to become popular. Description can go over the top. When I do long descriptive paragraphs, it sucks. Jean Auel, though, makes the descriptions interesting and captivating, so I could read those all day. Ann Rice... I didn't care for it, but most of my goth friends ate that stuff up. There's nothing wrong with the long descriptions or even the info dumps - If They're Done Well.
  6. Shadoe

    Shadoe Sage

    And yet, there are some forms of fiction, where describing certain things in excruciating detail is not only the norm, but desirable. In romances, especially historicals, describing the clothing is expected. In spy fiction, describing the mark over several pages is expected. It depends on your audience. If your audience likes the long descriptions, you provide them or the audience feels cheated.
  7. Writing, I would suggest, is writing, regardless of genre. I've never considered the fiction I write/inflict to be a class apart from any other kind of storytelling. All fiction is fantasy when you get down to it, it's just that some forms express their truths more palatably than others. The problem with a lot of genre fiction, I feel, is that it has a need to bury mundanity of plot beneath a deluge of facts. Facts aren't what fiction is for. Or rather, assuming a cloak of humility for a moment, it's not what I read fiction for.

    As someone who has an irrational (though not entirely unwarranted) distaste for the Great Unwashed and whatever conventions they deem to follow, I'm always happy to tip received wisdom on its head and kick it when it's not looking; in this case, however, I have to agree with your online writing group.

    Whether spoken by firelight or read by eco-friendly light bulb, stories are most effective when a light touch is employed, when the reader feels as if the words have always existed in their head rather than having been implanted by someone else. Sadly, too many fantasy authors feel a perverse desire to bludgeon their audience. Heavy-handedness destroys the illusion, and if an imagineer can't maintain illusions what purpose do they serve?
  8. Angharad

    Angharad Troubadour

    That's why I was so happy to find this forum! I haven't shared my work around too much, but I do go to a writers group, and I am the only fantasy writer there. When I read my work, I often get turned up noses and responses such as, "Well, I don't read that kind of thing, so it's hard to give a critique."
  9. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    My sister doesn't like to read Tolken because he is too descriptive. What I have trouble understanding is how the hell can one be too descriptive. I found Harry Potter simple along with many other books that I have read. I like reading the descriptions, I like the details they are what makes the story different from the countless others out there. It seems like a lot of people have the notion that less is better. Why is less better? If we strip down stories to nothing than the essentials what sets them apart from everything else out there. Don't worry if you put to much descriptions and no one will read your books, I will at least. I know it's small help but what the hell.
  10. Because today the vast majority of our readers watch tv. What's a pirate look like? What would you imagine a person working at a chain fast food restaurant look like? Or maybe someone who works in the medical field? All should have ready images without me even giving any description. You version and mine will probably be different, but it really doesn't matter what those detail are if they aren't important to the story. Tolkien grew up in a world that didn't have a tv in every home...I think back then radios were like tv in a way. Still, he needed to describe more because his audience didn't come with a ready image of an elf, or a dwarf, and no one would have known what a hobbit was.

    Writing changes with the intended audience. When the intended audience already has a vast array of mental pictures to rely on, we don't have to try and override their image with ours, only make sure theirs includes the important details they will need for the story. I have tv and several hundred fantasy books in my personal reserve of pictures, so I've read lots of descriptions, and the more long winded you are, the harder you will have to work to make the rest of the story good enough to make up for it.
  11. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    I understand what you are saying, well sort of, at least how it pertains to tv. This is the unedited first parargaph in my story
    Crimson, the sun cast its final spears of light through the frosted ice that glossed the back of his heavy leather jacket, Mazku’s citadel against the life starved cold. The new come darkness swallowed the forest’s ever steepening mountain foothills. Awesomely high the Lithe poles spoke their secrets to the receptive breeze bearing the wafting snow. Goose down fluffy white snow, adding to days of heavy snow veiling the crunchy hard pack a foot beneath, it slumbered on, undisturbed by the aged poles serenely whispering their lives, soothing the forest to dreams of the night.
    Does this imply that it sould be cut, it servs no purpose to the story what soever aside from adding to the mood. I know everyone has probably seen something similar, but why should I downplay something I create to apease to an indiaviduals desire for convinient simplicity. I understand what you are getting at but I can never agree with it, on principle. What exactly do you mean by long winded by the way? And on a last note how the heck do you indent?
  12. It's heavy, too heavy, you'd loose me as a reader...now. Deciphering all those adjectives makes the reading work. Instead of crafting a elegant background, you've added a few tons of weight to your sentences. Read it out loud. The words don't flow, and it even sounds heavy.

    Is it downplaying, or just not finding better nouns to do the same job? Also, 'awesome' is overused by so many for mundane things. It's used for just about everything now, and although I think your intended use is correct, you have to take into account current language usage and what has become...cliche, or just lack of communication skills. (Listen to any teenager and you'll normally here the word 'like' a dozen times in a minute.)

    You can use that much description, but you will find a smaller and smaller audience to like it. I guess it comes down to the purpose of your writing. Are you creating a story for people to remember, or fancy words for people to remember? If the reader pays attention to the words, they might very well miss the story.

    '[' quote ']' then a '[' /quote ']' minus the ' and spaces, or use the quote button in the toolbar.
  13. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    Well aside from needing editing, I wrote that four years ago for Nanorimo, and understand what you mean by doesnt flow. My question was quantitative. Now if that paragraph underwent editing, I can see the problems to which you speak, would it still be too much?
    Your comment on the use of awesome is a good one that I had not thought of, so thank you, I will keep it in mind from now on. Now how about this?
    Mazku sat with frost covering the heavy leather jacket he wore. The evening sun cast it's final shadows through the Lithe Poles. He shrugged off the small pinches of falling snow that fell across his cheeks. In the distance he could hear the aged poles whispered their lives.
    Quick question. It helps to have the character doing something in the description? If I include Mazku more in the descriptions, how it is affecting him and what not, would it still be too heavy? in the original paragraph that is.
  14. Much better.

    Description that is added to the movement of a story adds to it (to a point), but a paragraph of description is like a dead stop. After a big battle scene, a few sentences showing the destruction (adding in the feelings of the pov character) makes for a good slowing of the pace. Description can effect the pace, but in general, you don't want to use it too frequently to slow things down.

Share This Page