Discussion in 'Writing Prompts' started by BrandyTimmons, Nov 16, 2015.
I am looking to improve my descriptive abilities. Can anyone suggest some techniques or exercises?
You are on a foreign world. It appears strangely earth-like, but gravity is 10% higher.
Ok, this is what I came up with. It's not great, but that's why I'm here, to get better. Advice and criticism is welcome.
The first thing I noticed was the smell. That fart smell of methane. The air was breathable, though the odor clung to my nostrils. As I took my first steps onto the planet, I noticed a tightening in my chest. NASA had advised me that the higher gravity would make my blood circulation slow thereby causing my heart to pump harder. The higher ups had searched for a planet that more closely resembled Earth, but time was running out and they couldn't afford to be picky anymore. Earth was dying. This planet had been named Sanguine, both for the hope that it would be mankind's new home and the crimson hue the planet's red Sun gave it. I felt sick. My body had begun to ache from the gravity change and the goddamn smell was getting to me. My thoughts wandered to my last moments on Earth. I had kissed my wife farewell and promised her I would see her again. What a joke. I knew I'd never see my family again. All because mankind was a parasite, devouring our home planet, then moving to a new host. I was here as part of a 10,000 man crew to erect a settlement and begin research on farming this new terrain. From the settlement we would breed and consume the new planet until the boys back home decided to send more colonists. Someday Sanguine would be as barren as Earth and my descendants would begin their journey to find another unfortunate planet. I took in my surroundings, trying to form a clear image in my head of this planet's beauty before it's inevitable fate. There were large, brightly colored flowers in a field of rose colored grass. The colors were both like colors on Earth and unlike colors on Earth. I saw blue flowers, but they were slightly a different pigment from the blue I grew up with, changed by the red Sun. Purple flowers highlighted the blue flowers and joined with the rose colored grass making the field look like an LSD fueled phantasm. The sky was this new shade of blue with fluffy pink clouds on the distant horizon. Everything here was foreign, yet strangely familiar. I risked a deep breath, testing my stomach as the stench consumed me. It was time to get my head out of my ass and onto more pressing matters.
Not a bad shot at all.
My first reaction is that this is quite a wall of text; try breaking it up into paragraphs a bit to make life easier for the reader. My second reaction is that you seem to wander around a lot, moving from one thought to another and back again, then on to a third. If you took your thoughts, and sorted them into a small pile of each one, and then wrote one paragraph on each, that would solve both of my problems.
This is, quite literally, a writing prompt so I have moved it to the designated subforum.
The first thing I notice is that it's very woosh-woosh follow me as I tell you each thing I do and see and notice. Would you really be thinking these thoughts in this way with this syntax?
Now I'm being fed backstory that's disjointed from the actual moment. Why is she thinking about the goings-on and doings of the higher-ups back on Earth? If she is to give me this information, it should be in the context of this very moment in which we are engaged. She should be telling me about her trepidations as to this last chance, this one and only place, connected to the things she sees and hears and smells.
Again, she's reporting things to me in a very disconnected way. Why don't I have an actual impression of her take on the appearance of the sun that then leads to an affirmation (her affirmation, her feelings) as to the coining of the sun's name?
Now we're back in her head where we should be.
Oops. Sorry. I've been calling her her all this time when it's actually a him.
I would totally not have hired this dude to be on this mission if these were thought patterns to which he gave voice with any frequency.
Again, instead of being in his head I'm in a vitriolic Facebook post destined to have a long and storied comment section.
And we're back in his head again.
You're having trouble staying with the character, in the moment, and letting me actually experience him as he experiences this new surrounding, and since the exercise is specifically description, that's an issue.
You could start writing flash prose pieces. Start with a higher word count i.e.- 200 words and edit the piece down to half - 100. Depending on what genre you're going to write for description doesn't need to go on for very long to be potent. The idea with keeping an eye on word count and editing is - you'll start to cut words that don't mean anything. Superfluous statements
You're repeating a similarity to Earth yet I'm not sure it's necessary because the mc is already comparing everything to Earth - rose colored, flowers, clouds, grass. The implication is already there. Also new shade of blue feels vague. How is it new?
The one thing I noticed about this piece was it seemed up and down in tone. Some details didn't match the sardonic tone of the character - fluffy pink clouds.
Do mood pieces. Sit somewhere - a bar, a park, a schoolyard, a church and focus on a creating a flash piece based on a mood. Not just the details of a bar - but the mood of the bar. That way you're not concentrating on all details but only specific details. And your wording will be more exact or rather more in keeping with the tone because you'll start eliminating words that don't fit.
Awesome! Thank you guys for all the suggestions. I can't wait to try a new piece with these in mind!
BTW: Methane is odourless. The smell of bodily gaseous emissions is down to other compounds, such as hydrogen sulphide.
I like the descriptiveness. I like your willingness to receive criticism. I am not going to offer that here. I will say, I learned from others' critiques. I need to put into practice what's been learned.
I agree mostly but referencing the backstory of things briefly in literature I see all the time. Is that really bad?
Separate names with a comma.