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What do you do to improve your descriptive writing?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Geo, Mar 19, 2016.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I think that on the whole, we're in agreement on the technical aspects of description after all. We've just been interpreting each others' words differently. When I said one thing you thought I meant another, and the other way around.

    There is one point where we still disagree though, and that's likely not going to change:
    There isn't anything wrong with this goal, but it's not my goal.

    My goal with my writing is to provide the reader with a pleasantly enjoyable escapist reading experience. In other words: I want to give my readers an temporary escape from the real world, and I want them to enjoy it.

    Having a clear vision of my world and being able to communicate it to my reader is essential, but I'm not going to fuss about every little detail. It's more important to me that they're able to immerse themselves in the world, and that they have a good time.

    - - -

    Now to the example you make.
    With the usage of words like plantation etc I would probably have an image of the Skaa similar to yours. If we assume those other images represent the writer's vision, then there's probably some kind of issue with his descriptions (I haven't read those books).

    The question then is this - assuming you saw the images after you read the story:
    1. When you read the story, did the mistakes with the descriptions affect your enjoyment of the story?
    2. After reading the story, when you saw the images, did that affect your opinion of the story and the author?

    I think that the answer to the first question is no, because you weren't aware of the issue, and it didn't interfere with your own image.
    For the second question I think the answer is yes, because you learned of the mistake and you discovered that the author hadn't communicated their vision clearly.

    To me, the important question is the first one.
  2. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage


    I'm pro escapism, I think that western audiences are too concerned with verisimilitude,grittinesses,and purity of genre.
    I grew up playimg 90s,well mid to late 90s jrpgs, Grandia,Star Ocean 2,Saga Frontier 1&2,Crystalis,Final Fantasies VII,Tactics and X,Phantasy Star Online,Golden Sun, Fire Emblem. Science-fantasy is a pretty common occurrence In Jrpg territory.

    As I said before when I read, I read to experience the author's vision,their message if they have one. Beyond enjoyment I do not read for myself. Because I will assign my own value and meaning to the things with in a book, I will draw unintended conclusions;as does everyone else that reads. This will obfuscate what the author intended and valued.

    In an ideal situation I'd be able to read a book egoless, carrying nothing of myself into it, as Stacker Pentecost of Pacific Rim carries nothing into the Drift;But that can't be done.

    I can't stop people from drawing their conclusion,and deriving their own meaning from anything that I may right; if I could I would though:D.

    I have to try and communicate what I want for myself to a potential future audience , a trip into the world of the author. That is why clear and concrete description is so important to me,without that description I'll have to fill in the blanks myself and what I fill in will not be what they imagined,and experiencing the imagination of the author is the high-philosophical reason behind my reading; the common one is entertainment. The less gaps that the reader has to fill in the better.

    As for Mistborn, I knew that the way I was seeing things couldn't be right from the start. No it didn't make me enjoy the story any less. We are in the realm of ideals and technicalities of the craft, Brandon mostly like wanted to invoke the idea that the Skaa that dealt with a comparable level of oppression to black people during the slavery-period, and in many ways he does just that, however three descriptive elements effected just how I would auto-interpret the world, an oppressed ethic group,living in shacks, on plantations. That alone colored everything for me, and crossed line from a people(peoples to be technical) being treated like black slaves, to being black slaves filtered through the lens of fantasy.

    Thus mulatto Vin was born.
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I read the Mistborn books.

    I had a different take on the Skaa & Vin.

    My imagining enhanced my enjoyment of the story because I helped in its creation. In that way, I was an active participant.

    Every reader will bring themselves into every piece of creative writing. It is impossible to avoid. A clever writer can use that inevitability to their advantage in story telling.

    L&E, I wish you luck in your endeavor. I don't believe what you want to do is possible, but I do hope you'll prove me wrong someday.
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Let's get back to the original topic then, of how to try and improve descriptions. :)

    On thing that hasn't been brought up in this thread yet is the concept of first impressions. When you first meet a person, it takes you a few seconds to form your first impression (roughly 7 seconds according to google). Then, once the first impression is set, it takes a lot of time and effort to change it.

    I looked into this a while back and I found no research on how this translates into reading, but I believe it does. I think that when we introduce something into a story, we have a limited amount of words to explain it to the reader before their impressions settles.
    After that point, adding more description is still possible, but it will have much less impact on the reader's impression.

    This is another reason why I try to keep my introductions short and to the point.

    How many words do you have before your reader has formed their first impression of that which you are describing? I don't know, but I try to avoid using more than one paragraph for describing someone - two at a stretch.

    Any longer and I'm past the point where a reader has already formed their own impression of the character.
  5. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage


    I won't be able to, getting my point across exactly would require footnotes on every page,an appendix at the end of the book. And companion books,that not only explain the world but how I think.

    Thus my attainable goal is learn how to create clear and concrete images with my description.
  6. Geo

    Geo Troubadour

    In real life we create first impressions based on both, what we see and our previous experience, hence the first impression is highly subconscious. I suppose it's the same when reading.

    If you start a description with the physical appearance it's possible I jump directly into making inferences about personality (stupid example: Her blond hair cascaded down her shoulders, a ha! she is blonde, she must be useless... nothing against blonds I was one myself until gray hairs took over). And it is probably the same if you start by describing the personality (another stupid example: He was always laughing, enjoying life, unaware or uncaring of all the pain that existed in the world... this guy must be a prick, all handsome and such if he doesn't even know the pain of rejection...)

    So I'm writing all this only because while it's true that we get first impressions quite quickly, many of them are not as durable as we like to believe, and the ones that, like the energizer bunny, keep going and going may not be much in our control.

    But, all that said, yes I also think that quick first impression help for they leave room to develop the characters later.
  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I think that my best advice, for what it's worth, is to first try and understand how readers process information, how they process the words they read. Once you have an understanding of that, you can use that to tailor your descriptions to best suit your goals.
  8. Leo deSouza

    Leo deSouza Acolyte

    Read, read read and read, it is the only real way to learn how to write effectively.
  9. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Read, read, read.

    Write, write, write.
  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Right, right, right.
  11. Bekka King

    Bekka King Scribe

    “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King

    Thanks for all the great suggestions so far. In addition the suggestions made so far:

    1) When I'm actively writing, I make a point of also reading books written by great authors who have published the type of material I'm currently writing. I do it not to copy their ideas, but to think about what I can learn from their writing style - such as scene descriptions.

    2) I'm currently packing my camera around with me when I go for walks. I look for things to take pictures of - such as an interesting door - that might have a place in my novel. I work at photographing the item from a visually intriguing angle and think through how I would write that image into my story.

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