Last time I asked for your opinion of description in books from a reader’s perspective, but how do you feel about it as a writer?
I’ll confess, description is one of my writing demons. Action and dialogue usually flow from my brain to my fingers without much problem, but when it comes to description I’ll sit, stare at the screen, and go over the sequence line by line.
Have you noticed that some writers can describe six different sunsets in a book and it never becomes tiresome? I consider that talent!
When facing a place I know I need some description I start by asking what my character sees. I try to envision those sunsets and then try to come up with words that don’t sounds so cliché they make me want to gag. But visual description is only one part of the experience.
We have to ask ourselves what our character physically feels. Is he hot or cold? Are her clothes comfortable or so formal they’re making life hard? Is there a cold hard floor beneath her or soft carpet?
Then there’s the sense of smell. Is there fresh clean air or the sour scent of traffic?
How about sounds? Is the room deathly silent or so loud he can’t think?
When it finally comes down to actually constructing the novel, there are two main things I try to keep in mind. The first is “where to describe.” At what points do I decide to stop the progression of the story and let the reader know what my characters are physically experiencing? The next is deciding how much description do I need before I pick the action back up.
It’s a balance. A story feels bare without description, but I still think there should be more action than description. I.E. if the chapters are primary description, there’s something wrong. The story must progress! I try to stick to description that really means something to the story.
For example, describing how cramped a character’s living space is can help the reader understand her current lacking financial situation. However, a wall by wall description of everything in the room distracts everyone from the point!
So, what about you? I’ve described my writing style and methods. What about yours?
One huge point that a commenter brought up on the last post was that the particular genre you are writing in makes a difference. For instance, mystery is generally expected to be a little faster paced, whereas more literary work can have more description without feeling too slow. Do you agree?
Btw, if you haven’t voted in my poll yet, be sure you do! Yes, I’m having way too much fun with this. ;)