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Looking for the best descriptive writing (people and places)

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Eimingami, Oct 14, 2011.

  1. Eimingami

    Eimingami Scribe

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    Hello Everyone,

    I've been looking around this forum for a while now and finally signed up. I've been writing my first novel for quite a while now and it's become time to get serious about its quality to potential readers.

    It's quite clear to me and those who've had a chance to read some of my chapters that there is a problem with certain areas. Mainly, the pace is too fast and my descriptions are lacking.

    I decided to ask you guys, fans of fantasy and writers of fantasy, for advice.

    To be very specific - I am looking for books you've read where the plot, characters, and world weren't necessarily that great -however- you frequently found yourselves thinking "wow, this guy/gal is really good at describing milieus and characters".

    The reason I am interested in novels where other important elements failed is that those elements can often elevate whatever is lacking and thus make us biased.

    In summary - What books have you read where most things were cliche or downright uninteresting but the descriptions and set ups were amazing?
     
  2. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    Well, these books aren't bad, but I think Tolkien is pretty famous for his powers of description in LOTR and The Hobbit.

    Terry Goodkind started out Wizard's First Rule with an insanely long description of trees (never finished that book). Neil Stephenson's Anathem has an absolutely ridiculous amount of description (never finished that one either).

    This is embarrassing to admit, but I've read some Nora Roberts and found her descriptions of setting and characters both succinct and vivid.
     
  3. Eimingami

    Eimingami Scribe

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    Wrote a long reply then clicked reply to thread again instead of submit... Yeah, in short, tolkien is great, Wizard's Rule is cliche and thanks for the tips :)
     
  4. Lord Foul's Bane, I read 3/4 of it before I gave it back to the person I'd borrowed it from...lots of description...even more boredom.
     
  5. Eimingami

    Eimingami Scribe

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    I'm getting examples here of 'lots' of description as a cause for the book sucking. In short it's the opposite of what I was asking for :) ... I want the descriptions to be GREAT, it's ok if they felt a bit too long if they were great while the rest of the book was so so.
     
  6. Maybe because what you are asking for is generally a cause for failure. Description should be enough to make the reader see your world, not as you see it, but as much as it needs to be seen to get the story across. Many of the examples people will give are the ones that tried to put the authors vision in front of the readers eyes, and it took so long most people get bored and loose interest.

    I'll suggest a book called Descriptions, by Monica Wood, that helped me to understand a great deal about what good description is, and how quickly it can drag a story down. Understanding what good description is might be quicker than trying to read a lot of books with lots of description to understand how to do description.
     
  7. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    I started to post this earlier but got distracted and then my frighteningly computer savvy 3-year-old closed my browser page so she could watch Dora the Explorer on netflix.

    Anyway, I agree with LD about reading Descriptions. It's great. Also, you're right, sorry, that wasn't the information you were looking for. I don't know of any books that are bad except for descriptions, but that could be because strong description isn't enough to get published when the rest of your book is horrible. So at least you're strong in the important areas!

    I though of another (better, I hope) example, though. Tad Williams is always creating new worlds in his books, and I consistently find myself immersed in them with a clear idea of what they're like without noticing that I am being told. Does that make sense? Maybe I'm just a totally biased Tad Williams fan, but I think his is a good example of vivid yet organic description.
     
  8. I can agree with that. I loved Otherland, although I haven't read anything else by him since. (Although it was a bit long. The amount of time Irene spends wandering through various virtual landscapes where nothing really happens...)
     
  9. I'd agree with much of what has been said here - too much description will kill a book, I got totally bored of lengthy descriptive passages - the wheel of time became unreadable for me because of that. I seem to remember Mervyn Peakes Ghormenghast being overladen with descriptions too, making it a very difficult read.

    without reading a sample of your work though its hard for us to say what sort of descriptive work is lacking in it, and what reading is recommended for guidance.

    off the top of my head I'd say tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Harry potter and maybe some Sheri S Tepper (not read her for years but seem to remember her being good at describing worlds without getting bogged down or losing the pace)
     
  10. UnionJane

    UnionJane Scribe

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    It's rather difficult to isolate a book where the descriptions shine and the other elements are poorly conceived or executed. I think you'll also find it to be an issue of taste about whether or not, as a reader, you prefer lush exposition or the bare minimum. However, I could say with confidence I enjoyed the setting of Eragon while finding the rest of the book...less than satisfying. If you enjoy rich detail, Mistborn is a good place to look, but the descriptions don't exceed the other writing elements in quality. Best of luck to finding the best answer to your question. ;)
     
  11. Eimingami

    Eimingami Scribe

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    Hey guys, thanks for all your tips!

    @Darkstorm - I tried to clarify a bit in the In summary - What books have you read where most things were cliche or downright uninteresting but the descriptions and set ups were amazing? - Now, it might have been unnecessary to ask that the examples should lack in other areas but I don't see how it was so confusing that it prompted examples of bad description or even long description. That said, no offense meant, which is why I smileyfaced that little bad boy of a comment. Will check into Monica Wood.

    @Mythique - I read Tad Williams long ago but in Swedish! Maybe I should get some english editions and reread Otherland. Vivid yet Organic is definitely how I'd like my writing described one day.

    @Benjamin - 2 for Tad? :) Guess I got to pick em up.

    @Graham - Your shortlist is my shortlist. Pratchet and Rowling are borderline perfection. The reason I cannot really emulate them is that my writing is too different from either. I still consider them great inspiration for pace and literary integrity. I will eventually post a sample of my work but it has to be the right segment.

    @UnionJane - Mistborn, noted.
     
  12. Terry brooks, The Elfstones of Shannara has some amazing scenery.
     
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