1. Crabapple
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    Crabapple Member

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    Descriptive Language

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Crabapple, Jan 13, 2011.

    I have been writting for a little bit now, peicing together a VERY rough timeline for an idea I have.

    I am trying to write a fantasy novel, and have read countless books to help with the style and scale I envision. The author who most inspires me has to be Tolkien, the language and description he uses is something I find quite inspiring.

    And I know I could never emulate the language Tolkien used (I mean come on, the man was linguistical genius), but I am looking to improve in my descriptions.

    Any tips or advice, as it is an area I am always striving to improve?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Read a lot of the types of work that inspire you this way.

    One recommendation I could make is Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast novels, which outdo Tolkien in terms of depth of description. And his descriptions are more interesting from an artistic standpoint as well.
     
  3. Crabapple
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    Crabapple Member

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    That is another one I have read (although I think I have only read one). I think he is a lot like E.R.Eddison in the way he writes his descriptions (which I do enjoy), but I never got into them because of the plots.
     
  4. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Practice, practice, practice and you'll find your own voice.
     
  5. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    Just for practice you could try emulating Tolkien (or another writer you admire) when you write a descriptive passage in your work. I will probably feel clumsy and alien to you, but you should get an idea for how the words flow, and you will probably find that some of it feels natural and suits your style. Those are the nuggets you build from as you develop your own voice.
     
  6. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read all the books you can by different authors. This will show you how others writer and give you an idea of what you may want to do.
     
  7. Kevin B
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    Kevin B Member

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    As mentioned in previous posts, you are doing exactly what you need to do. Reading the work of others is your single most tool to becoming a better writer. Pay attention to their structure, and descriptiveness when reading, as you have already pointed out that you do. Let your imagination run wild as you're writing, and I think you will find that you possess the ability to be just as descriptive as those you desire.

    As it has been said by other successful writers, you must read to be able to write, and I believe this whole-heartedly. Otherwise, we would be as lost as a sailboat in a cornfield.
     
  8. vanarie
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    vanarie Senior Member

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    I tool you may find helpful is writing daily observation, fiction journals. Break your journal into five to ten categories and write in it everyday about things you see around you. Example:

    Food - Clothing - Appearance - Sound - Smell

    If those were the choices for my diary I would make a description for an item for each everyday.

    As in smell: A rotted sewer pipe and the smell of eucalyptus. The only place you would find that is in the lower east side. Where it comes from has never been explained to me but it lingers around the sandwich I eat on my lunch-break. The salami doesn't cover the putrid scent. And it's bad enough to provoke a gag reflex and scare the hell out of my lunch partner. He's just looking at me waiting for chunks to fly and he says with a smile on his face, "the damn eucalyptus again isn't it?"

    That would apply more to my style of writing but you can make your journal however you wish. The most important thing is to carry a notepad around with you and jot notes anytime you see something worth describing.
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that studying how other writers describe things is starting in the wrong end. You first need to know the thing you want to describe.

    For example, to describe a tree, you first need to have a good sense of how different trees can look and be able to see them for your inner eye. To describe the look in a mother's eyes as she watches her child play, you first need to understand what is in her heart. No amount of grammar, sentence structure or vocabulary can help you with that.

    If you try to describe things without knowing them, you end up with stereotypes and clichés. If you study hard, you end up with well-written, elaborate and stylish stereotypes and clichés.

    Artists are often given the advice that if they want to learn to draw, they first need to learn to see. I think it's the same with writers - to learn to describe, you first need to learn to see. See that the sky is not always blue. That trees don't always grow upwards. That garbage heaps can be beautiful. That there are a hundred different ways to smile, and that you can tell a Frenchman from a Spaniard by the way they move their upper lip when they speak.
     
  10. Crabapple
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    Crabapple Member

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    Thankyou all for the advice :)

    Islander- Now you have me thinking, thankyou
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am rubbish at art but I will sometimes sketch out what I want to describe it gives me an order of describing things.
     
  12. Crabapple
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    Crabapple Member

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    Hmmmmmmm actually, thats not a bad idea I think
     

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