1. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Descriptive writing. HELP!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by writing4me, Feb 22, 2009.

    Okay I have a problem with describing things ex. places, people, gestures. Do you have to know everything about the place or the person so that people can picture it in their head while they read it? It feels like I rely on the person's backstory or whatever information I can find on the place to show people what I'm trying to say. Does anybody have this same problem?

    CJ
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    No. You can't get too boggeled down in description, or else you end up like Christopher Paloni, who spends half his books describing everything. It breaks the action, it slows the progression of the story, and it makes the reader forget what was happening before the descriptions began. You only need to give enough for the reader to get a mental image and it doesn't need that much detail.

    Example: He was a beast of a man, broad shoulders and arms the size of tree trunks. His face bore jagged scares, and his eyes were sharp and narrow.

    That's all a reader really needs to imagine the kind of person we're talking about. If it's relevant to the matter at hand, you may need to describe the individuals clothes, skin, hair, or eye color, but I find that it's often easier to just leave those vague if you can, allowing the reader to think up their own mental image of the character.

    Don't know if I'm reading it correctly, but I am assuming you mean that you rely on backstory and location to characterize your characters for the reader? If so, this can be a good way to handle it if you write it right. Don't give it all away all at once. That's again, a distraction from the action, and not all backstory is relevant. Reveal pieces when the time calls for it or when it seems appropriate. This can help expand the character after your initial characterizations, challenging the readers early assumptions and offering a deeper understanding of their character and personality. I find this very beneficial. It keeps the character interesting, it makes them more endearing and sympathetic even if the character is a complete murderous sociopath. It is also essential when design twists, and plot lines that characters have some level of mystery to them for us to discover later on.

    I'm sure we all do at some points. I know I do. I spend most of my pre-draft outlining building characters that are interesting and make sense (at least in my mind they do XD). For me if you don't have characters you have no means by which to connect the reader to the story. The character is the reader's lifeboat, and the lifeboat needs to float to keep the reader going.
     
  3. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I wish I better understood what you are saying.

    Do you mean you have difficulty describing hand gestures? I don't understand.
     
  4. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Thanx for this, I'll definitely take that on board.

    CJ
     
  5. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Sorry if I didn't make it clear what I was trying to say. For ex. say a girl is walking through a forest and she's trying to find her way out. I have difficulty trying to describe what she's seeing? How she moves through the forest? etc.

    That's the problem I have and I can't seem to write it down...

    CJ
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Imagine in you rmind how she is walking. Is she walking in some way that is important?

    She entered the dark forest. Rays of light peeked through the trees. As she mad her way through the brush . . .

    There are countless ways to paint an image with words. You have to decide what's important.
     
  7. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Oh! I see.

    Well, here's one of the things I learned:

    Oftentimes, what you should be attempting to convey is, rather than actions, an ATMOSPHERE.

    For example, let us peradventure that you were to write a story wherein a girl walks through a forest, and you want to convey a sense of -- well, a sense of what?

    Perhaps it is a very large forest, a forest that she has never before entered.
    Then the atmosphere would be the spaciousness of it, and how scared/amazed she is.

    Thus, a scene combining these might happen like this:

    Mia held her hands clasped tightly and pressed against her chest. Her steps were slow, unsure, and her eyes focused upward at the tall, rotund trees. The forest was so enormous! She could have hardly imagined such an incredible place only a day before. Intermittent and scattered shafts of sunlight burst through the high branches from a sky hidden by a canopy of greenery; dust particles slowly drifted in the yellow beams that provided a sole illumination.
    Mia's heart thudded in her chest, and as it would slow, another new sound - the cawing of a bird, the rustling of grass through which a rodent rushed -- would again arouse its frantic beating, and she would twist nervously about, searching for the source of the noise. Her hair lit when, upon a turning step, she entered into the warmth of a shaft of light. Noticing the change in brightness, but without thinking, she turned to look up, and immediately squinted and lifted her arm to shield her eyes.





    You're not necessarily attempting to describe every little thing, especially in such a constantly changing place as a forest, but merely the general IDEA of the forest.

    Here, it is the sheer largeness of the forest and the unfamiliarity that the main character is experiencing, particularly; she is afraid or very nervous.
    The more you understand your character's personality, psyche, situation and present state of mind, the easier it is to write a scene.
     
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  8. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Thanx for all the suggestions. I'm working on a story where I have this problem.

    CJ
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    study how the best writers in the same genre do it... read the best writing constantly and you'll find writing better comes more easily to you...
     
  10. JohnNoZ
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    JohnNoZ Member

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    description

    Hi Like Sol Stein's advice. Don't worry about nailing every detail. Just focus on the few truly distinctive details, and nail them with great particularity.

    Once you state a few distinctive details, the reader will fill in the rest, and their imagination is better (more fun for them) than all the extra writing that you can do.
     
  11. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Is there a good "trick" or two, or some sort of rule of thumb, for pulling off something like this? I still can't get it down.
     
  12. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    You cannot 'get it down,' eh? I should like to see some writing of yours! As would, I presume, some others, here.
     
  13. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    As far as your example. In a case like this, would a thesaurus come in handy? Description is a bitch to get down right, because too often I sound like I'm trying too hard.
     
  14. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I don't know. I never use a thesaurus because I like using common every day words for everything. I just hate words no one's heard of before because I don't see what purpose they serve at all other than to confuse the reader or make them think their stupid. If it's not a word I'd hear in a normal everyday conversation or that is unfitting for the situation I never use it. Like Obfuscate...
     
  15. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    It's not that I can't find the right words, it's more that I can't describe what she's seeing... but thanks for the suggestion.

    CJ
     
  16. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Yeah but that's the problem.

    I have a hard time keeping in mind the meanings of preeeeeetty basic descriptive words and so on.. It wouldn't be for trying to find huge or rare words. It would be to get my memory jogging of words I've clearly heard before but aren't exactly used every single day.. Words that are common in fiction, but not so much in daily usage. I guess.
     
  17. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I didn't realize that came off like a suggestion, so, in a way, I'm glad I helped when what I was really trying to do was identify with your problem as well haha.

    But what you just said really explains it well for me also.
     

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