1. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    To describe a car, or not to describe a car.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jetshroom, Nov 29, 2011.

    I have found myself at an impasse.

    I have described an elevator in my science fiction story, but I have reached a car.
    It is, in essence, a private train more than a car, but for the purposes of the story, and it's use, you can consider it a car.

    Given that this car will literally only be used from getting from point A to point B, is it worth describing? There's nothing particularly
    remarkable about it, it's a car. I find myself falling either to overdescribing an irrelevant object, or just calling it a car, which seems boring.

    Have any of you reached this kind of juncture? Any advice?
     
  2. Silver. Fox
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    Silver. Fox Member

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    If there's nothing amazingly remarkable about it (as you said there wasn't) I'd just give a bit of a brief description. Maybe the color, anything that sort of stands out, maybe the way it smells.

    Like you'd describe a building or a room your character would walk in. Tell a little bit about it and move on, no need to write a book in a book about something simple and somewhat unimportant.
     
  3. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    Okay, I've got to a level of description that I think I'm okay with.

    Eventually, they reached the outskirts of the city, where Kellieh had a chauffeur waiting with a gleaming black rail chariot. Large and bulky, yet aerodynamically curved, it seemed like some predatory beast resenting it's confinement to the rails.

    A couple of things. Is this too much? Should I try for a more mechanical description, or is the animalistic vibe of the machine good?

    Also, what do you think of the term Rail Chariot? Might I be better off using something different?
     
  4. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    The devil take this double post.
     
  5. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    A chariot is originally horse-drawn, so the word might be too, ehm, archaic to describe this 'car'. Rail car wouldn't work, because there are already rail cars and that would give the wrong image. You could check for synonyms for 'vehicle', maybe. Apart from chariot I like this description, especially the resenting confinement phrase. Although it's should be its.
     
  6. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    A chariot is originally horse-drawn, so the word might be too, ehm, archaic to describe this 'car'. Rail car wouldn't work, because there are already rail cars and that would give the wrong image. You could check for synonyms for 'vehicle', maybe. Apart from chariot I like this description, especially the resenting confinement phrase. Although it's should be its.
     
  7. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I disagree with Amsterdam and think 'rail chariot' is pretty cool and I immediately got an image in my head of a single train car type thing. I think it works, and works quite well. Many times in fantasy books older/archaic terms are revived with new context and I really like this one.

    The predatory beast resenting its confinement thing, well.... I think it's a tad too much. Are they in the pits of hell? Is it bursting out of hell? Out of anything? Then this might make sense, but if not, I think you can find a better way. Just my opinion of course, take it or leave it :)
     
  8. jameskmonger
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    jameskmonger Member

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    Just make the car seem interesting. Is it a small car? Or a large, predatory, menacing machine? The car could also be a personification of the character, a posh character would drive, or be driven in, a posh car, wouldn't they?
     
  9. Devrokon
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    Devrokon Senior Member

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    Model type and color is usually all I go for.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is really good. Just enough to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind, and it really doesn't matter a bit if every reader's picture is a bit different.
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had to think about this for a bit. I guess I would first state that I don't read a lot of science fiction, so I may be basing this on the wrong 'ground rules'. But although I do love the description, I can't help but think it's a bit like describing a walk-on character in great detail. It builds an expectation that the character is going to be of some importance, when in reality they are here and gone. Now, if this train/car is being used as some sort of metaphorical thing, or the description reflects the emotions/surroundings of this particular scene, then I could see going into this amount of detail. But without more context, it does seem as if you're setting the reader up to expect something happening with this train/car, something of significance, rather than it just being a thing to get from A to B and nothing more.
     
  12. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    This.

    Maybe thrown in the year too if I'm feeling wild. :p
     
  13. BookWeaver
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    BookWeaver New Member

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    I reach that juncture all the time. ;) But if I'm on the first draft of a story, I tend to err on the side of overdescription instead of a lack thereof (that's just the way I roll). I prefer the "eliminate later" approach more than the "insert in future" strategy. Sometimes insignificant details can become important later in a draft, so it's nice to have things to fall back on.

    Personally, I like this description quite a bit. The word "chariot" conjures an image of bulkiness that you reinforce with additional description. (It also makes me think of the curves and rounded-ness of old stage coaches.) You also use the word "rail" which suggests the idea of a train. I think that the blending of familiar (but superficially contradicting) terms creates something that feels foreign without becoming incomprehensible to readers. I've seen similar strategies (the blending of archaic and modern terms) in other stories as well, so I don't have a problem with it.

    As for relevance, that probably depends on the rest of the story. Jameskmonger said:
    And I agree with this. But the description can also serve as a personification of the setting, which in a fantasy/science fiction novel can become a certain type of character. After reading that description, I am picturing a world with wealth and an undertone of something more ominous. The words "chauffeur" and "gleaming" suggest wealth to me, and the use of the color black and the word "predatory" seem to indicate menace.

    Those are my rambling thoughts. Hope that it's a little bit helpful. :)
     

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