1. sarahs
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    sarahs New Member

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    Very bad with Descriptions, what to do?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by sarahs, Sep 22, 2012.

    I know this thread doesn't fit in here, but as a newbie on the forum i don't really know where to put it.....

    actually my whole problem lies in the fact that i detest descriptions, even while reading a piece i skip the descriptive part and go straight to the conversations... its like the characters and their psychology is what really astonishes me in a book and that is the primary reason why i keep myself glued to my readings.

    now that, I've finally decided to show the story developing in ma mind since the last 6+ years, some light in the day...this awful habit of skipping descriptions has ruined my hopes of starting out.

    The characters were developed first and then the plot, but now i cant weave all this together and blend them into one because of my mediocre descriptive skills;

    any help would be appreciated......:)
     
  2. serowden
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    serowden Member

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    It's because you skip past the description when you read that you don't know how to do it. Read, and don't do that. Try to enjoy the words for what they are. Try reading a novel you've already read so that you're not compelled to skip to the dialog, since you already know what happens. You will never learn to write description if you don't read descriptions.

    Other than that, look into writing light novels, which are mainly popular with YA in Japan, but that might work for you.
     
  3. sarahs
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    sarahs New Member

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    This time I shall try my best to do the 'no-skipping' part, but unsure whether or not it will work.
    starting with 'Jane Eyre' right here, right now..... its a bit too high given my standard of reading but wanted to give it a shot!

    Thanks...
     
  4. shaunplus
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    shaunplus Member

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    I think good descriptions are like poetry, and should be evocative of the psychology of the character. For instance, if your character is happy, pull from your happy experiences and make a description that's important to you.
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Start to love descriptions - keep a note book observe people, things, colors.

    Make the descriptions reflect the character - think of your heroine, her
    room, her things. Help them set a mood for her - like if you were to share a college
    dorm with her, and you walked into the room and saw her decorated side, you'd
    know everything about her ( or mostly. )

    Check out some poetry - it's great for showing you how to say something descriptive
    in the most concise way possible.
     
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  6. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Description is important. For readers who don't have imagination, they want to know what your setting looks like, how your characters and feel, and how the environment feels. Your characters can just tell the back story information.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Description has its place. But much of the obsession with description comes from the dominance of visual media. Who needs imagination when special effects wizards can provide it in three dimensional high definition, with thundering surround sound.

    So yes, description has its place, and it is a skill you need to master as a writer. But in the meantime, develop your strengths. Keep your descriptions as concise and minimalist as you like, and let actions carry your story.

    Description has a cost. It slows the pace where it occurs. This is not always a bad thing, but you must be aware of it, and make good use of this aspect.
     
  8. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    Actually, you sound like my kind of reader. I don't skip the descriptions when I read, but my interest definitely gravitates toward the dialogue, characters, and psychology.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Stephen King is at one end of the spectrum, and Patricia Highsmith was at the other end. Both of them know (knew...RIP, Ms. Highsmith) how to lay down a story.

    So, go with what works for you. Obviously, you will need to do some describing to orient your readers to the environment your characters inhabit, relevant attributes of your characters, etc. But you don't need to bathe the reader in details to accomplish this. Simply provide enough carefully selected cues to get the reader started in the right direction, and let them fill the other details with their imaginations.
     
  9. FatherTime
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    FatherTime New Member

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    So you only read what people say? well why not make the description something that one of your characters explains?

    now inevitably you will have to create descriptions, and in doing this i completely agree with the above posters that you should go back and read how some of the writers YOU think are great describe what's going on in their realm.
     
  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Don't devote whole pages, paragraphs or even sentences to description. This will make your writing come across as slower, and people will generally want to skip past it. Plus, once they have just enough tidbits to create their own mental images, readers usually do so, and even if you create your own long description they'll still maintain their own image in their head.

    I always slip things in naturally, in a "show, not tell" manner. Even adding three extra words to an existing paragraph can go a long way toward conveying what someone or something looks like. You can also combine descriptions, too, in a really compact way. For example, "Her thick, curly hair made the muggy heat outside even worse" tells readers that 1) the character has thick, curly hair, and 2) that the weather is hot out. But without going into actual description mode on either one.

    Edit: this is my own personal style, and if you've got a narrator who's more of a rambling type, then it makes sense for him/her to describe more deliberately. But either way, no one wants to read numerous paragraphs about how your main character's golden shimmering hair glimmers in the wind and her purple eyes are oh so exquisite, etc. Not that I"m saying you would anyway. ;)
     
  11. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Look, if you don't like description, you shouldn't spend time on it. You shouldn't do anything in writing or art because you feel like you have to do it. It's all stylistic preference. Some people have long-winded descriptions, some people have almost none. Adopt a style that feels natural to you, you only need to have the amount of description required to keep your story going.

    There are novels where the descriptions are unnatural and feel out of place. Don't write a novel like that. Minimalism isn't amateur; trying to fake a style, is.
     
  12. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't use description only to describe - use it to tell a story!

    My teacher used to say that 'a landscape is always a state of the soul'... So, when writing a descriptive passage, I think you should always try to give it from the perspective of your character. Note, of course, that your narrator (even in 3rd person omniscient) is also a character in your text.

    Also, note that descriptive passages can be used in different ways: sometimes, what you don't show is as important as what you do show; sometimes, the tone of your description says a lot more than what you describe; also, the context can change the way your reader perceives the descriptive passage.
     
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  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    This is an excellent point. +rep.
     
  14. randi.lee
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    Ron Rozelle wrote a great book titled, Description & Setting. Might be worth a read...
     
  15. reviloennik
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    I think you can write a great story with very little description. In fact, that's what I'm working at the moment. Why does the girl have to have long, blonde hair? She can simply look amazing. The reader can decide what that means for him or her. Just give enough information to make the context clear and then let the characters do the talking... and I do mean dialogue here. :)
     
  16. DannyA
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    Being too descriptive can often take away the freedom of the reader to paint the scene or character as they see them. My idea of a perfect summer's day in the country may not be the same as the description of your perfect summer's day in the country. :) Equally though, too little description can leave a scene or character devoid of anything substantial from which the reader can launch their imagination. I've found my favourite authors comparable to my food intake when it comes to being descriptive - a little and often!
     
  17. Maxitoutwriter
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    Take an online descriptive writing class; it is free. Google "Free writing courses" and somewhere on the first Google page (We're not allowed to place links) there is a website that is offering a ton of free writing courses. One of those free courses is a descriptive writing course. Take it.

    You CAN do it. If I can figure out how to properly use commas, then I guarantee that you can figure this out. It might take while as did my comma problem, but I guarantee that if you stick with it, you will get better at it.
     
  18. AlexinDelhi
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    Coming from a non-native English speaking background, the problem you mentioned sometimes proves a serious handicap for me too. But I have learnt not to bother myself with too many details, I just write whatever I can write and with ease. Google is a great place. Supposing you wish to describe a building , just Google the words you have in mind and see if you find something that goes with the image that you have of the building. You pen down the details and then publish them here for a review to know how it can be further improved.
     
  19. AlexinDelhi
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    Thanks for the information.
     
  20. Les Zeppelin
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    Les Zeppelin New Member

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    Dialogue is the skeleton that binds, description is the flesh that forms. Without well written descriptions, your story will be hollow and devoid of personality (in my opinion of course).

    The dialogue can propel the story to answer 'why', 'who' and 'how', but description is integral to establishing 'where' and to a lesser extent, 'when'. Don't go crazy with your descriptions (like early McCarthy or latest Murakami), but a well written passage on the description of a scene can do wonders for the propulsion of a story. Saying you can't write more than a sentence of pure description I would say is bad advice. There's no hard and fast rules in anything.

    I'd recommend reading the beautifully written opening chapter of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier for a perfect example of well weighted description as a means of setting the story.
     
  21. TALLULAH
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    TALLULAH Member

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    "The characters were developed first and then the plot, but now i cant weave all this together and blend them into one because of my mediocre descriptive skills;"

    Not in any way trying to discourage your improving descriptive skills which are most important. However when reading the lines above, I felt compelled to ask if you have ever considered writing plays? You feel comfortable writing characters and plot which are the two most critical aspects of a play (or screenplay). Of course you would have to do some describing of the characters, i.e., "Rachel enters stage left. She is a tall but gawky teenager with scraggly hair and terrible posture." But there really is a minimum of description in that genre.

    Just a thought. :D
     
  22. divided_crown
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    divided_crown Member

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    Or, as an alternative - if you feel uncomfortable with the way your scene looks or feel that something is missing, work it out like a play first. Once all the dialogue is in place, you could go back to the "staging", all movement, settings, character descriptions, internal monologue - and sharpen the dialogue.
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I seem to be giving this advice a lot lately: Don't start with a classic, especially an old classic. Particularly when your goal is to learn to write descriptions--I doubt that modern readers would put up with a new book with old-style descriptions. Read somebody new, popular, but nevertheless admired. Christopher Moore is coming to mind.
     
  24. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Read and study good description examples and use them as referrece to better describing skill.
     
  25. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Heh, I sometimes do the same, skipping descriptions I mean. But it works in an odd way, one of my favorite writer (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) uses a heck of a lot of description and I absolutely love it. He even manages to start his latest novel with about 2 pages of description.

    Anyway, I am curious what you consider to be description. I can think of two types of description:

    1. Describing what happens.
    2 Describing the scenery (in which x happens).
     

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