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cookienut



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
Posts: 31
Location: Milky Way

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 8:13 am    Post subject: Descriptions... Reply with quote

Hi. I'll probably have to rewrite my first chapter because of this, but I need some helpful advice in the process.

What is the best way to do descriptions? I'm referring to things like describing a scene, a room, a person's dress. I sometimes forget to do this because I'm more concerned with storytelling and emotional descriptions. I have to remind myself to describe these things...If I remember, that is.

I just wanted some input on things like word usage, when a description is too long, what things need descriptions, or even...how do you remember to describe things? You don't have to examine all of these, these are just areas where I need help

It's a little embarrassing to admit this, but any advice for this would be welcome.

Thanks!
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Alassante
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just my personal opinion and some things I've been told before. Use physical descriptions of clothing and surroundings as much as needed to set the scene without going overboard. Betas have told me many times and I hear it other places as well, don't describe clothing to the minut details because no one really cares what color her dress is (yes I am very guilty of that lol Very Happy ) But a good rich descriptions can really set a scene.

I've read some pieces where the description is so vivid I feel like I am there with the characters. Its hard to walk that line of being too much and too little. Thats why you get a really excellent beta whose not afraid to tell you that you're over or under doing it.

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trekqueen



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rhapsody and I have had some conversations concerning this lately but it is good you are asking about it! The way I work a scene description in is through action... like Al said it doesn't have to go overboard because then the reader might be like... WTF I don't care about the freaking beams in the ceiling or the sheer curtains on the bay windows. The way I do it is I work small details little by little. For example:

Glorfindel opened the door to the room and saw Ecthelion sitting at a round table in the center of the room. Walking up to the dark-haired elf, he took a seat next to him, propping his feet up on the wooden tabletop. Noises of training warriors with clashing swords and shields drifted through the window as they sat contemplating the other.
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Rhapsody



Joined: 11 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cookie: it doesn't matter. I think the trick of writing is that you have to show the reader what is going on. Some people tell for exampe: he wore a tunic and got a juice. That's telling, the challenge with writing narrative is that you get the chance to your reader what is going on. That is the icing on the cake of a story.

I am struggling with narrative myself because I have to make the translation from one language from another, but it is your balance to find. Just try, write and have fun!

I know authors who can write the most sublime narrative with details pages long. It is the way that it is written and shown to me that counts.

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Alassante
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although I love the Vampire series by Anne Rice, she's guilty of writing soooooo much description on some things that I have to go back to figure out what she was talking about before the description. And she's a best selling author!! I think it all depends on your reader's preferences. You can never please everyone of course but you have to write it to your own level of satisfaction. Like Rhaps said - have fun with it. And Trek's example was really good. I now all the details without her droning on, 'There was a table in the middle of the room that was round and wooden and...'

Another piece - just off the top of my head - that has wonderful rich descriptions is NancyBrooke's Boats to Build. I rarely notice descriptions unless its just excellent and I remember reviewing that one about her amazing use of description. Very Happy

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NancyBrooke
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

trekqueen wrote:
The way I work a scene description in is through action...
Yeah, what she said. Respekt

I believe strongly in not putting anything in your work that doesn't tell the story. Is the fact that her dress is blue relevant to anything? Is it a color the viewer likes? Something as simple as "her dress matched her eyes" can imply she chose that color on purpose, to make an impression, that your character is someone aware of her own attractiveness. Sometimes it's helpful to put your description in the eyes of the beholder: "He noticed her dress was blue, just that shade of blue that always made him crazy for her", or even just "she'd dressed carefully, he could tell."

All of those describe the character's clothing in a way that implies something about the character, and/or the characters' relationship - it furthers the plot of the story.

You want, IMHO, to diminish the narrator's voice (unless the narrator is a character in themselves); lengthy descriptions by an omnicient third-person narrator are off-putting and remove the reader from the story, saying, in effect, 'let's stop telling the story so I can set the physical stage for you ... '

Put in the details that matter, we'll imagine the rest.

Alassante wrote:
Another piece - just off the top of my head - that has wonderful rich descriptions is NancyBrooke's Boats to Build. I rarely notice descriptions unless its just excellent and I remember reviewing that one about her amazing use of description. Very Happy

Shocked Big Hug Thanks, Al!

Oh, and that story's right here. Very Happy

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ghettoelleth



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Read Steinbeck...anything but Of Mice and Men. Then don't do ANYTHING he did. Then read Alice Walker, do everything she didn't do. Then my child, you shall be a writer of descriptions.
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cookienut



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for responding. I'm trying to make a note of all this.

NancyBrooke wrote:
You want, IMHO, to diminish the narrator's voice (unless the narrator is a character in themselves); lengthy descriptions by an omnicient third-person narrator are off-putting

I see. I never did like descriptions that came in the middle of a conversation (unless it was really important).


Do you think descriptions of surroundings work better at the beginning of a chapter or scene change or as the story is unfolding?
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vladazhael



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cookienut wrote:
Do you think descriptions of surroundings work better at the beginning of a chapter or scene change or as the story is unfolding?


I would say they work best wherever it's most relevant to the rest of what's happening in the story. Like in Trek's example, she mentions the sounds heard outside at a time when the characters would likely be noticing them as well - thus the setting interacts with the characters. Same with Nancy's suggestion of describing a character's looks through another character's eyes - it's relevant because someone else is noticing it, not just because it's there. That's much more effective than just throwing a description out there so the reader knows about it when they don't necessarily have to.

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Robbie
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Joined: 22 Jun 2003
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It was a dark and stormy night as the wind caressed her darkened locks, fleetingly illuminated by the sharp bolt of lightening that ripped from the sky, splintering the cold, wet squalls of rain that hammered relentlessly on the icy pavement she stood upon as she patiently waited for the number 26 to Cleethorpes.


Simple. In one sentence you know that Yorkshire's wet.

(But we knew that anyway.)

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