1. Baller Dale

    Baller Dale New Member

    Jan 25, 2012
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    How to improve description?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Baller Dale, Aug 5, 2012.

    I'm 20 years old and I wrote my first short story recently. A friend - who studies English Lit - told me I need to work on description. She said because the strongest aspect of my story was the dialogue, perhaps I'm more suited to screen writing.

    She said I show WHAT is happening well, just not HOW it is happening. Again, she bought up this being more tailor made for screen writing.

    Is this a bad sign?

    Or do I need to just improve my descriptions? If so, how? Are there any specific techniques?

    Thanks :)
  2. captain kate

    captain kate Active Member

    May 4, 2008
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    Cruising through space.
    I tend to look at the scenes in my head like a movie and then describe what I see. Mentally imagine the scene, sometimes I sit with the laptop in my lap, fingers steepled, and eyes closed as the scene runs through my head. Once it's a clear picture then I'll write it down.

    In the bigger picture I do the same for novels. If it doesn't visualize or feel right in the timeline, I'll put it down and let the next one visualize using the same technique.

    Sounds like you're in the telling phase instead of showing. It'll take time to learn the difference but you can do it. :)
  3. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    The purpose of the setting is to provide a frame for the story and a medium for interactions. The setting is also a source of complications and obstacles.

    Don't let description overwhelm that purpose. Add details to help make it real for the reader, but also leave room for the imagination to fill in the details. Keep in mind that description slows the pace, so place it where you want the pace to level off, for instance to prepare for a surge in the pace.
    1 person likes this.
  4. B93

    B93 Active Member

    Jul 23, 2012
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    I started out with pretty mundane descriptions, relying on adjectives and adverbs to pound home the basic idea. Since completing my draft, I keep going over it to find places I can use better (I hope) descriptions.

    First thing to do is to replace any vague words with specifics that convey the idea. This usually makes the text more interesting. Here are some pairs that I think are improvements.
    Don't say the bathroom was garish.
    Say the green curtains clashed with mauve walls.

    Don't say the office was run-down.
    Say he brushed flakes of peeled ceiling paint from the contract.

    Which sentence puts you in the character's place?
    The house was very quiet.
    He heard nothing but the hum of the refrigerator.

    Which one takes you there?
    It was a large office building with off-white hallways and many cubicles.
    He went through the maze of drab hallways on downtrodden industrial carpet to his office cubicle.

    This one may be a little over the top.
    They entered the expensively decorated executive wing.
    They went through the glass doors separating hallways of monotonous color, motivational posters, and walls scraped by errant equipment carts, from the realm of plush carpet and real art.

    Or a little action to convey the idea:
    He hadn't been involved in the conversation until the subject changed.
    He had been slouching in his chair and fiddling with the reading glasses in his hand. Now he straightened and put the glasses in his pocket.

    I hope those examples (at least the better of them) convey something that will help you.
  5. E. C. Scrubb

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Jul 22, 2012
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    Southwest US
    That is an excellent point.


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