Monday, August 11, 2014

Description can be your friend or your enemy

As a writer of fiction of the fantastical kind I find myself having to describe things in ways that will catch the readers attention but won't drive them batty from being overly flowery. There is a fine line that every writer much walk when doing description.

There has been a lot of talk lately that descriptions are too top heavy in fiction. In fact a lot of critics seem to expect us to have action, action, action, dialog, action, action, closing. They are upset with the idea that we are trying to build images in the readers mind.

Yes, there are a lot of books out there with way too much description but I have found a lot of books just aren't giving the reader enough information for us, the readers, to come up with a clear image of what we are reading. Describe your hero, your heroine, your villain and your world in clear, concise terms. Use words that are not so common to tell your reader just who it is they are reading.

Here is an example of a description I used that readers seemed to enjoy from one of my first published works, Partings:

The ink black horse raced across the hills, a darker shadow against the night sky, the sound of its hooves breaking the eerie silence.  The only color was a flash of red as the rider's dark cloak flapped open to show a stain of blood underneath.
I watched as the figure drew near, my eyes searching, trying to pierce the darkness beneath the hood.  My white gown, too thin for the night air, flapped in the cold wind, my long hair, tangled.  Once it was the color of Autumn leaves, bright with gold and reds.  Now I didn’t not know, I could not see it.  My eyes focused only on the distant form, racing across the hills.  Though shivers racked my frame, I didn't notice the cold.  Could it be, was my long wait over?

Now yes this needs a bit of editing but you can see what I mean. By using words like Ink black or autumn leaves you get an image in your mind of just what I meant in my description. I could have simply said her hair was red but that would not have given you the image of a fiery flow of colors.

So how about when you do your next description of a character instead of saying they simply have brown hair you try one of these words?

rich loam

Three little words that can give different images. They don't take up any more room than just typing brown. You can do the same with any color of course. use your adjectives. Don't be afraid of using them. No matter what the current thought is on adjective and adverbs they are a part of our language and if use judiciously can enhance your story. 

Don't play into the current trends if you can help it. Use words that are just a little more intelligent. Your character could be the most intellectually dense character in your world but the way you describe him does not have to be that way.

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