Sunday, April 4, 2010

Being Descriptive

I'm baaacckkk!

I took this week off, mostly because of too much work, followed by an amazing weekend off - I took my best friend to my hometown. We stayed with my lovely parents and spent all Saturday getting nice and red at the beach. Now if only I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn and go to work tomorrow....

Revisions on Banished are coming along, I'm up to chapter six!

Now. Down to business. Descriptions. How much is too much? Less is more? What do you go by?

I know that I'm like a lot of writers in that when I write it's like watching a movie in my head and I'm just describing what I'm seeing. Of course, in my head, I know exactly what everything looks like. What's going on in the background. What the characters are wearing. The weather. The colors. The sound. But usually when I'm reading what I've written, I've left a lot of those things out.

Because I forget that whoever is going to read this can't see inside my head.
Sounds ridiculous, I know. Of course the reader only has the words that you put on the page to tell them what is going on. That's why it's a book and not a movie. Duh. I get so wrapped up in dialogue (because that is waaaayyy more fun to write and also comes more naturally to me) that I forget to describe the setting as much as I probably should. Here's where I admit that as a reader, I skim. I really don't care about the little details. I want the action. I want the dialogue. But as a writer, I have to be aware that some people need the little details, the descriptions, to truly make the story come alive.

However, I think it's a fine line between setting the scene and getting bogged down in useless information. Case in point. Stephenie Meyer. I love the Twilight books as much as the next person (Unless the next person is a fourteen year old girl convinced she's going to marry R-Patz. In which case, I don't love it quite as much), but I feel like she includes soo much extra description that I just skipped over because I really didn't care. For example, this is from when Bella is at the beach:

"The bouquets of brilliant anemones undulated ceaselessly in the invisible current, twisted shells scurried about the edges, obscuring the crabs within them, starfish stuck motionless to the rocks and each other, while one small black eel with white racing strips wove through the bright green weeds, waiting for the sea to return."

Now, clearly, this kind of descriptive writing works for her. But I am never, in a million years, going to be able to write like this (even if I wanted to).

So, how do you know how much description to give? How much detail do you include? Where do you cross the line between giving the reader enough to picture the story and making their eyes glaze over?


Shelley Sly said...

Welcome back!

I'm aware that I don't write enough description. I'm all about dialogue and action. My scenes could take place in a black box for all I care (except I do care, so I try to describe... I'm just not very wordy about it). Boy, that snippet from Stephanie Meyer is a bit much for me. Not my style, but some enjoy writing like that. Good post!

Jessica Hill said...

I have a difficult time with description, too. I'm like you, when I write, I see it in my head and just forget to write it down. Description is something I usually go back and add in during revision. I don't think there's a any kind of guideline on how much description to include. It's different for every writer.. and reader. That's what makes it so tough.

Anonymous said...

A few pointers from the peanut gallery (We're de-lish btw!)

Less is more. It's a rule I've lived by forever. I like to think of it like this...I COULD add hand claps to this song, BUT does it REALLY need it? Same thing in writing.

Also don't worry too much about description. Describe what you would see at that particular place in your head to set the mood. Meyer goes into wayyy too much detail in that passage. Does anyone really give a rat's ass about the starfish stuck to the rocks? No, they're there for the man-scaping.

And now I have to go, any mention of Twilight and it's just a slippery slope till your favorite artist is Justin Bieber...jk.