1. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Writing Unique Descriptions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pythonforger, Jan 7, 2012.

    We've all been there before; you're just peacefully writing and then suddenly you realize the plot demands a detailed description of [romantic or dramatic scene] and your well of words runs dry, your story grinding to a halt. Your mouth falls open and you realize that there's absolutely no way you can describe it without sounding unspeakably corny.

    This is a guide to help you overcome this obstacle in your writing, as well as write quirky descriptions that will grab the reader's attention as it deviates so from the usual, routine adjective pileup. It's based around a simple principle:Make Unique Metaphors And You Will Make Unique Descriptions.

    Let me demonstrate this principle to you. Say you're writing a sunset. So many poets have eked the details of a sunset that a simple "It was sunset; James marvelled at the beauty of the red falling sun as he stood on the cliff, wind whipping his hair" simply will not do. Perhaps for another, less common scene, it might work. But undoubtedly your reader has seen roughly the same description a thousand times before and craves a richer, more detailed or simply more unique description.

    So you make up a metaphor about sunset. What does sunset look like? To me, it looks like the sun is dying, and the red light enhances this effect. But I'm not the first one to write this metaphor, and it's incredibly boring if I were to write it. That doesn't mean I have to give it up altogether; I can just alter such that it retains the original beauty of the tried and tested metaphor, but still marks out my distinctive style.

    I sat down at my computer and started to write a sunset that included that metaphor but flowed on to another metaphor of my own invention that compliments it well. Here goes:

    "The sun died facing the west, the last remnants of bloody light fading as the sky was conceded to a sharp crescent and dozens of sparkling lights from eons past." [By the way, the "eons past" thing has caused some confusion to people who think that they're seeing the light of stars in real time. In reality, stars are so far away that it takes eons to reach us, thus the light actually shone millions of years ago, but is only reaching us now.]

    But say you don't want to keep making new metaphors. Okay, reasonable enough. All you have to do is make your work stand out. Say your original description is,"The beauty of the sinking orb of glowing crimson fire was breathtaking; Mary Sue stood there and watched, enthralled." All you have to do is change it to,"The beauty of the sinking orb of glowing crimson fire snatched Mary Sue's breath away. The enthralled girl simply stood there, watching"

    "Snatched Mary Sue's breath away" instead of "breathtaking" and "the enthralled girl simply stood there, watching" instead of "stood and watched, enthralled" are what shapes the new description. When's the last time you saw the phrase "Snatched X's breath away"? Yes, you may have seen it somewhere before, but you don't see it commonly, and any uncommon thing automatically grabs attention.

    Thus, a corollary to the principle of making unique descriptions is,"Anything That's Uncommon Grabs Attention; Write Uncommon Descriptions!"

    The best part is that even the laziest writer won't find it very hard to turn the most boring sentence into one that at least gets a second glance. I should point out that this sort of thing also evolves your writing style!

    Well, that's the end of the guide. I hope your enjoyed it and I hope you'll remember my principle(and its corollary for lazy writers) the next time someone admires a sunset! ;)

    -Pythonforger
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but 'quirky' does not = 'good'... and the examples given here would do lord lytton justice, i'm afraid...

    the best writing, especially in re imagery, hews to the 'less is more' axiom and its old army cousin, the 'K.I.S.S.!' principle, not descending into incoherence-bordering floridity and hyperbole, as those samples unfortunately do...
     
  3. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    It's possible to heighten the importance of a sunset and thus give it a substantial amount of prose, you just have to work up to it. It works for the old werewolf stories. You know, the ones where the sun slowly decends and the man beings his transformation into a werewolf. You can drag that out forever.
     
  4. Ziggy Stardust
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    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

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    I don't like it when writers to fish for obscure metaphors or similes.

    I just want the descriptions to be clear and accurate.

    Imo similes and metaphors should be used sparingly.

    I agree with mamma, descriptions should always be as succinct as possible.

    I don't really agree with either of your "principles".

    I'd say, don't try to write uncommon/quirky descriptions. Write the descriptions as accurately and in as few words as you can translate the image in your head onto paper. Sometimes this will involve a metaphor or simile. But don't try and force them. Don't think that you need to find a metaphor or simile.

    I think that many people tend to get bogged down in trying to write grandiose descriptions, and neglect both their plot and character development in the process.
     
  5. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I do not like to read or write flowery descriptions.
     
  6. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    To each his own. But I'm curious why a writer such as yourself does not at least appreciate some flowery prose? Flowery language is an exercise of literary agility, IMO.
     
  7. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    That is like asking me why I prefer blue more than yellow.

    It is just personal preference.

    I have nothing against people that like to read and or write flowery descriptions; its just not my thing.

    And for me, an exercise in "literary agility" is taking something overdone and making it your own and completely unique.

    But, as you said, "To each his own." :)
     
  8. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    I think there is a misunderstanding here. This is not meant to be a know-all, end-all guide. This is a shortcut, a cheat if you will, for writers who're stuck. And there's always editing.

    Myself, I think flowery language is just another form of writing, albeit one that isn't very popular(unless you count fanfiction) and that gets annoying when repeated.
     
  9. GinnyB
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    GinnyB New Member

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    Thanks for the 'tip' Pythonforger. Revamping bland descriptions, turning sentences or phrases into "melt in your mouth" ones, often requires considerable patience and imagination doesn't it? At the moment I'm trying to do just that with my opening paragraph!
     

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