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

Improving Description?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, May 12, 2020.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

    316
    44
    28
    I've recently returned to writing and i've come one with a few ideas that i've been hammering out, but they all showed me that i have a major flaw in my writing: description.

    I am willing to chalk it up to just being rusty from not writing in such a long time, but regardless i recognize that i need to improve this area going forward.

    What are some good ways to improve this, or what resources could i look into for help?
     
  2. enoch driscoll

    enoch driscoll Scribe

    28
    23
    3
    use the all-knowing Google. if you simply google words that describe noses, you get hundreds of choices. Also, learn a bit about what you're describing. if you know the ins and outs of how doors work, describing them is no problem. there are actually a lot of parts that go into something as simple as a door. also, keep in mind what the characters know. they can't see the inside of a lock, so it's pointless to tell the reader exactly how many pins there are. unless of course, a character is picking the lock. then you should know how as well, and I recommend youtube for that. you can get a whole lot of info on countless topics, and it's all free.
     
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    5,548
    2,645
    313
    One thing I like to point out is that it's not just about the words that You, the writer, use. It's also about how the reader process the words and translates them into impressions/images/stories/etc.
    I've written a little about the theory, here: Writing and the Power of Association (as well as in a few other articles here on Ms).
     
    Devora likes this.
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    7,902
    3,603
    313
    There’s kind of a writing trap with descriptions. People have been taught that you describe things with adjectives. “The lamp was tall and bright.” But the real descriptive power is in verbs. “The lamp stood in the corner and brightened up the room.” No adjectives in that.

    Once you break that trap and think about what the object you’re describing is doing, what effect it’s having around it, the rest is just practice.
     
  5. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    502
    366
    63
    I rule I try to use, is to describe things and the environment in terms of what my characters would actually notice and really pay attention to.

    DevorDevor makes an excellent suggestion to use verbs to describe things vs. an endless string of adjectives. Especially in regards to first drafts. You can always go back and elaborate on details that should be 'worth' focusing on.

    It's a balancing act for sure, and it also depends very much on the overall tone (and to some extent subgenre) of your work. I tend to omit extraneous details on the first draft, almost employing the equivalent of a 'dark stage' writing technique.

    I would say that it's very important to convey the impression of peripheral details. It's no different than IRL. If it's 2 in the morning, and you have to pull off the highway to get gas, which gas station are you going to drive towards? The decrepit pumps out in the open, with one lone flickering, buzzing bulb on a lamp post and garbage strewn all over the parking lot...and there's some guy in an oversized jacket hanging out by the doorway, with tweakers coming and going on foot and soliciting his attention from worn-out cars... or do I go to the station lit up like a major league sports stadium, with lots of people coming and going? Depends. Am I trying to avoid being seen by people, or am I wanting to go someplace with the first impression of looking safe and reputable? Those are snapshot assessments I can make sitting at the traffic light to exit the ramp. Am I going to go left to the broken down, dark station or turn right towards the newer lit-up station? What are the posted pump prices, how much money do I have in my pocket? Could I continue to observe (describe) what I am seeing? I sure can. But, is it necessary to better understand the narrative, in that moment?

    I guess that's where 'personal writing style' dwells.
     
    Svrtnsse, Devora and The Dark One like this.
  6. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,019
    445
    83
    Wait, is Devora an even more female version of Devor?

    As noted above - limit your adjectives and adverbs. Put yourself in the scene and describe how it makes you feel.
     
  7. Devora

    Devora Sage

    316
    44
    28
    Ah this old joke. I probably should just get around to changing it.
     
  8. jacksimmons

    jacksimmons Scribe

    30
    35
    18
    I have found a brilliant way to make your prose both more evocative and more economic is to read poetry (and write it if you are in to that). Especially modernist poets (say Eliot onwards). I am a huge huge fan of word economy in prose, but also in balancing it with evocative imagery, and I can think of no better way of squaring the two than in reading and writing poetry. It definitely helped me, anyway.
     
    Insolent Lad and Night Gardener like this.
  9. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,019
    445
    83
    More evocative certainly, but more economic? It depends on your style, I guess, and exactly what you want to portray.

    A main feature of poetry is that its economic use of words is able to convey multiple meanings and feelings - many of which are only revealed after repeated reading or reflection. You can't convey a novel plot that way, but you can (with judicious restraint) splash poetic colour over your work with a mildly poetic approach.

    My first finished book (never published) was full of poetic intensity and I remember my sister's comment: "It's just one long poem really."

    At first I was horrified. Where did she get that idea? And as the rejection slips piled up, I realised she was absolutely right. My genius prose was buried too deeply in poetry.
     
  10. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,019
    445
    83
    Devourer would be appropriate for this forum...
     
  11. jacksimmons

    jacksimmons Scribe

    30
    35
    18
    When I say economic I just mean in terms of sentence structure and flab cutting. It’s true if you’re heading for evocative prose you won’t end up on the terse side, but I definitely think reading and writing poetry improves your instincts for what is structurally smooth sentence-wise
     
    Night Gardener likes this.
  12. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,019
    445
    83
    Totally agree.

    Try writing screenplays too if you want to improve your dialogue and learn to tell a story through dialogue.
     
    Night Gardener likes this.
  13. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

    502
    366
    63
    It's the difference between reading "The Witching Hour" series by Anne Rice (or, to be fair, any of her works), and "Lullaby" by Chuck Palahniuk. Two completely different approaches regarding tonal prose, sentence structuring and execution, both evocative. And they are both different from Stephen King. None are similar to Tolkien.

    I do think subgenre has a lot of influence on tonal choices and descriptors, because that might subconsciously be part of reader's expectations in regards to their 'relationship' to a particular author/genre. ( I expect a little more high prose "flab" in a Rice novel, because that is her voice and 'stylistic' choices as an author. )

    There has to be room to cultivate your own sense of balance and prose in a work. You have to be willing to incur risk to develop your own voice as an author.

    Frankly, the stripping back to the bare bones of 'barely prose' is not something I particularly enjoy reading, and I think makes a lot of authors read too similar to one another. Where has all the wordsmithing gone? A lot of recent, stripped back fiction feels... 'trendy' for lack of a better word.

    Sometimes, I wish an author would just let a few more words linger and entice me, rather than constantly drive "excessive prose" away. I am reading for an emmersive, evocative experience afterall. Reading a lot of contemporary fiction feels... hollowed out. Almost like the the prose equivalent of a fear of intimacy. I've read a lot of contemporary fiction that evokes all the mental and emotional investment of reading a technical assembly manual. Yes, I want to see how all of this comes together in the end, and parts and pieces of the whole might indeed be very interesting, but what did I really get out of all of it in the end? I want novels to haunt me long after I've put the book down.
     
  14. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    1,019
    445
    83
    "Almost like the prose equivalent of a fear of intimacy."

    What a great line.
     
    Night Gardener likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page