1. amariel
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    amariel Member

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    help with overly flowery writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by amariel, Apr 21, 2010.

    I have come to realize I tend to write overly flowery descriptions. I want to describe the sights, smells, sounds, etc. in a poetic and beautiful way, but sometimes I overdo it. Does anyone have any suggestions... what is the best way to write descriptive detail? How can you be poetic without being too flowery, or cheesy? Thanks!
     
  2. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    It's true that being overly descriptive can be a problem for a lot of writers, particularly writers that are new to the craft, but without evaluating your work it's hard to tell where you're going wrong.

    A certain amount of sensory imagery is great for writing, particularly when you're introducing a new scene. Situations vary drastically, but at least limit yourself to one paragraph of description per scene if you can. That absolutely is not a hard and fast rule, but it might be a way to challenge yourself.

    One paragraph will usually paint a pretty good picture without micromanaging your reader's imaginiation. From then on, tactfully insert a sight here and a smell there at a rate of one per paragraph or whatever you feel comfortable with. Just don't sacrifice the pacing for extraneous description.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To start with, cut down on modifiers. Adverbs should be the first to go, then adjectives. Instead, aim for more expressive verbs.

    Look for redundancy. Instead of "The blazing hot sun burned his red, stinging face," try "The sun blistered his face."
     
  4. alexwebb
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    alexwebb Member

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    Bit of a hard one to answer without saying just stop it!! Maybe you should try cutting all the description out of a piece and see what's left. Deconstruct it, and see if there's enough plot to carry it. If there's not, then you need to change your style perhaps. Have faith that your readers can and will paint their own picture if they're captured by the story. My style is perhaps opposite to yours. I don't describe things in depth unless it is integral to the story, perhaps a flaw in my own style but I write like I like to read. If I read a page dedicated solely to describing the sky or whatever, I chuck the book away.

    So be strict with yourself and edit would be my advice. Also try writing in character. If you're writing from the prospective of someone else, it is unlikely you will be over descriptive, unless your character is a flowery writer!
     
  5. amariel
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    amariel Member

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    great advice! just what i was looking for- thanks to all! i will go over my work and edit the adverbs, cut down on the modifiers like you suggested. it feels good to be pointed in the right direction.
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nothing wrong with having a lot of description, but make sure the reader is given the chance to digest it. Try to restrict yourself to only one idea per sentence, and don't follow lots of different similes and metaphors one after the other...
     
  7. s.knight
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    s.knight Banned

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    Have you not read Grapes of Wrath then? A novel can benefit from a page or two of absorbing description.
    For me, description is more than just writing, its painting a picture.
    Its not so much the length, its more the quality of the description, the art and craft that goes into it and the effects it produces.

    Having said that, there are many occasions where less is more, especially for neophytes.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The question was not whether a lot of description is bad. The question was, if you know the description is over the top, how do you dial it back without losing the elements you were trying to convey?

    Please stay on topic. Posts debating the merits of description will be deleted, because the topic has been endlessly argued elsewhere.
     
  9. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Imagine if you ordered a pasta and it came to you with all the herbs and seasonings in one big clump on the top. Everything is there, true, but it would be better if it were blended into the rest. Description does tend to work better when applied in sprinkles, rather than with a ladle. You can keep all the description, just work it into dialogue, action; letting it sit there like a lump of uncooked oatmeal in the middle of the bowl that can make it seem like it's over the top.
    Just my tuppence.
    YMMV
     
  10. s.knight
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    s.knight Banned

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    Well, practice makes perfect.
    So design exercises that enable you to practice.
    Read with cognizance and allow yourself time to absorb styles and techniques.

    Expand your vocab.
    Think about what makes good description, really think about words and their tones etc.
    Why are some words favoured over others?

    Be strict when editing. If in doubt cut it out.
     
  11. black-radish
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    black-radish Senior Member

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    Well when you describe something in loads of detail the best thing to do is chuck it into pieces so the reader doesn't have to read on and on about how everything looks at once.
    For example:

    The chair she sat in looked ancient, the black velvet was torn and the golden paint on the chipped wood scaled off.
    Her voice was clear as she said: "You must have realised this sooner! Why is it this very hour you have came to see me?"
    I couldn't look at her, so I staired at the bottom of her dress, worn down and frayed. There were some dark stains in the crimson linen, which reminded me of blood.

    Well you know what I mean.
     

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