1. Simon Kramer
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    Simon Kramer New Member

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    Description for the sake of it?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Simon Kramer, Apr 26, 2012.

    Hi everybody this is my first post, and I'm a first time writer!

    I have a million questions but I'll start with one :)

    When writing I find myself wondering whether I should add more description and then stumbling around trying to think of more to say.

    So my question is ... Should I just get down on paper what I'm thinking of at the time and then come back and review, and then perhaps but not necessarily add more description?

    I'm worried that I'm trying to add more to the story and perhaps make it more complex than it needs to be, because I've no experience of writing?

    Any thoughts would be very welcome and I hope I can in time also contribute.

    Simon
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes! Don't add description just "for the sake of it."
     
  3. Simon Kramer
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    Simon Kramer New Member

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    Hi Tesoro,

    Is the worry 'that it's not enough' common? As a new writer I have no idea whether there is a particular style or process required or whether it really is just as simple as 'doing my own thing' and then seeing what people think when they read it?

    Simon
     
  4. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    Read, read, read, read, read...write, write, write, write, write...submit, submit, submit, submit.

    Somewhere in all that you will find your voice. Good luck and try to remember to have fun.
     
  5. bibliolept
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    bibliolept Member

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    There are writers that make the characters' environment an essential part of the story, kind of like a character, too, like in Carl Rux's "Asphalt". A lot of description isn't bad; you can even use it as a plot technique for foreshadowing. Like, say, in your story, there's an old gun on the lead character's wall. Later, the lead character and the antagonist can get in a fight and the lead character (or the antag) can take the gun from the wall and--well, you get the gist.

    Description of the characters, the environment, etc, can really help to set a certain mood, too. Describing for the sake of descriptions seems kind of superfluous to me. Though I guess it depends on your characters and your story and the tone of it.

    Also, most new writers that I know--that includes me--consciously or unconsciously copy the styles of their favorite authors until they find a voice of their own. That doesn't come until later unless you're gifted with a natural voice, so I wouldn't be too discouraged if it takes a little (or a lot) of time. When I was thirteen I tried to write like Nabokov. :p The outcome wasn't pleasant. But roll with it! And have fun! :D
     
  6. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    When I write I often use generic descriptions on the first draft so I can get the story out, all my grass is green, skies are blue and people can only shrug, nod, laugh or cry. It isn't until after I get the whole story down that I bother filling in description. If I worry about it when I'm writing I forget to actually write the story. I can't seem to plot and describe at the same time. And I'd like to believe I'm not alone in this problem. :)
     
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  7. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    You are definitely not alone. I'm a first time writer and my approach has so far been exactly like this. I don't want to spend too much time lovingly describing scenes that I'm just going to end up cutting anyway. I see myself going back, after my draft is done, and "enriching" the story by adding appropriate descriptive material. I want to make the reader feel as if he or she is standing in my world next to my characters, and I think good descriptive material is a big part of that.

    I have added descriptive material to certain scenes and, for me, I've found that a little goes a long way. A few well placed words and phrases can have a transformative effect on the story. Yet it's also easy to overdo it. This is probably a matter of taste and style, and also skill (or lack of it in my case), but I find a large amount of descriptive material distracting and, in extreme cases, downright pompous.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just write a lot. I was looking over some of the stuff I wrote when I was 14 and my goodness was it bad! It was really very bad writing, but you could see the effort, the playing with words, all the little techniques and devices I'd come across in other novels that I'd decided to use in my own. You could see how hard I was trying, thinking of new and elaborate words absolutely everywhere trying to perfectly describe or conjure something to the point of overloading the paragraph with way too many adjectives.

    And now it's 10 years on and I'm working on my own novel. I've come a long way since then :) But would I be here now, if I didn't have all those years of playing, experimenting, and simply writing for pure pleasure? No, not really.

    So stop worrying and get writing. Read lots of good books, steal things you like and try and use it in your own work. You won't get it perfect first time but who cares? Practice makes perfect.
     
  9. infernal
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    infernal New Member

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    Read...Write a lot, review your writing and then go on. It's dependent on flow and style, but you are bound to discover all this as you continue to be more experienced.
     
  10. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    People always tell me to not add description unless it adds to the plot. But I think that it would serve more than a plot function, to give an insight into the world you've created for example.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just do your thing, follow your instinct and when you've finished the novel put it away for a while, like at least a month or more if you can. When you read it again with fresh eyes you'll realize if it's enough or if there's something missing in the way you've pictured it to the reader. And in the meantime, like the others have said, read read read, find out through other writers what amount of and what kind of description you like the best, what gives you the most vivid picture of the scenes you read, and how they can set the mood for the story. Then take this into practise when revising/editing your own.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, get it down first, then fix it. Description for the sake of it is generally a bad thing ("generally" because sometimes the description is what the work is all about -- Proust, for example), but description to immerse the reader in your world is not "for the sake of it".
     
  13. JHockey
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    JHockey Member

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    One thing to be careful of is to not ruin the natural pacing and flow of your work by adding in descriptions. I find when writing a first draft of something sometimes I emphasize the content, other times times the plot and characters, and sometimes description. A few apt descriptive words can sometimes get the creative juices flowing by setting the atomosphere not just for the reader, but for yourself while writing it.
     
  14. Mystique23
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    Mystique23 Member

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    Definitely write down what you're thinking before you forget any of it. You may find that some of the description comes to mind as you write it, and some of it will come when you go back later to review your writing.
    As for too much or too little, I really think that depends on your style. I've read a lot of books that make do with an average amount of description, but I've also read authors like Cecilia Dart-Thornton, who uses absolute shovels of the most flowery, beautiful description I've ever seen, but still manages to put out wonderfully riveting books.
    Read read read, and get yourself a thesaurus, if you need help with finding words.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Noooooooooooo!

    A thesaurus is a bad way to build vocabulary. The thesaurus is a feral beast who will whip around and rend you with its razor teeth and gulp down gobbets of your still-twitching flesh.

    Beginners who build their vocabulary with a thesaurus are quickly spotted by their just-off use of words they don't quite understand. You need to see words in use by competent writers to understand the contexts to which they apply and the shades of meaning beyond a simple definition, much less the fuzzy-synonym relationship learned from a thesaurus.

    The way to build your vocabulary is through reading, reading, and more reading. But even more important than a large vocabulary is a somewhat smaller vocabulary used with precision.
     
  16. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    What Cogito said, that thesaurus can and will lead you astray. And quickly. It has it's uses, but not to build vocabulary.
     
  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    ditto Cog. I only use a thesaurus when I desperately need something other than "smile", or if perhaps I've used all of "run", "sprint", "flea", "escape", "dart", "rush" etc all in one page. Don't use it to "build" a vocab, but you can use it to remind you of other fun words that have just slipped your mind right then.

    I once came across the word "angelic" and didn't know what it meant. My dictionary told me it was a "sweet smile" - so I proceeded to say that my adult male character gave an "angelic smile".... not so great.

    So yeh, use a thesaurus sometimes, but really, only pick the words you actually know - a thesaurus is a good reminder of words, but it's not for looking up brand new words whose definition you're not really sure of. For example, one of my writer friends love to use the thesaurus - there was a word I didn't know at every paragraph thanks to that - including the word "petrichor"

    It's just not very helpful really. I mean, it's really just a way of showing off your vast vocab without really worrying about just how well it's gonna convey its message to a general, mass average audience.
     
  18. bmillard
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    bmillard Member

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    yes, write it out, who cares about description when you have a story to tell? Then, when you finish, you can revise it by adding what you need to and then it becomes a story to share.
     
  19. Frusciante
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    Frusciante Member

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    The main point for descriptions that I make is that they don't carry on aimlessly. I see there's a tendency in plenty of writers in beginning years that pound on two adjectives for every noun, thinking it makes the story vivid and beautiful. Most of the time it will end up clogging your story's flow, instead.

    Be concise and original. It becomes easier to do this upon massing pages of literature in your noggin, as plenty have said before and will continue to say. ;)
     
  20. Mystique23
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    Mystique23 Member

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    Uh...sorry, I didn't really mean it like "build your vocabulary with a thesaurus", I meant "if you're a little stuck for words...". I generally use it when a mind block attacks and I've got a word that I know I've already used several times, but can't quite think of another one to use. I never use words that I don't fully understand, though.
    And for the record, I have read a crapload of books.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Umm. Are you perhaps taking Readers Digest a bit too literally?
     
  22. MamfeMan
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    MamfeMan New Member

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    I don't think I would include anything in something I write just "for the sake of it". Although it might be helpful in laying a starting block for a scene and then can be removed later. I certainly find that describing setting seems to be the hardest part for me, just because I'm probably not the best observer of my surroundings as it is. Seeing it done well in novels that I enjoy can be a powerful motivator, but I still find it to be tedious. There are times, however, where the setting is as important as the scene itself; where the environment sets the narrative into motion. I'm currently working on a scene set in a Jamaican restaurant, that will culminate in a very awkward and pivotal confrontation between several characters- the smells, the heat, the decor will all play a big part in this. So I've got to get over my fear of description, and start writing!
     
  23. writesistah
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    writesistah New Member

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    I agree. When I write, it's like watching a movie in my head and the descriptions appear as I go along. It helps make it enjoyable to write. Not everyone is like this but the main thing like others have said is to first get your words down on paper before you forget them. Also, don't overthink it so much. Writing (at least in the beginning on a manuscript) should be exciting, where words seem to be overflowing in your brain faster than you can get them down. When it gets to be a chore like it seems to be in your case, put it away for a while and then come back to it. Good luck!
     

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