1. labelab

    labelab Member

    Feb 12, 2019
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    Writing beyond description

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by labelab, Mar 9, 2019.

    As a writer, I'm very much description-centred.

    I love to write about what things look like, to embellish and impress, to write things that sound beautiful.
    But that only gets you so far, doesn't it? What novel would be read without any action or emotion?
    I think this is why I've been so stumped with writing lately; being able to pen only a page before running out of ideas. Because I can't get emotionally invested in writing about what the sea looks like today. It's fun, but only lasts for a little while.

    So how do I approach action? How can you make action and thoughts sound interesting? I'm afraid of writing an elaborate description and then having this horrible, awkward contrast with a plain lump of action. Does anyone else encounter this problem and agh, how do I fix it?!

  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I tend to bring my love of description to the action at the same time I try not to bog down the works.
    There's so many great vibrant verbs out there - scrunch, hiss, fumble, lick - that it becomes rather easy to bring a stylish note to everything without a lot of unnecessary embellishment. The key is to slant your writing towards the feeling of the character and or the overall style of the book so that you establish your tone and that helps you to not just write an action but to write it as only your mc could see it within the world of your story. It's like Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory making puns about whips for whipping cream like poached eggs are best when they're stolen in the dead of night. His replies become in and of themselves as wonderful as the descriptions.

    I try to read a lot of prose-rich authors - Nabokov, Angela Carter, John Updike, Karen Russell, Frances Lia Block, Tom Wolfe, Stanley Elkin - to study their techniques. Poetry is also a big help because it shows you how to center a thought beautifully and concisely without going into endless detail. And poetry also utilizes a lot of powerful verbs to make the most of their descriptions and emotions.
  3. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
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    What is all description is the action of observation by the character?
  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jan 8, 2017
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    Rhode Island
    Well, not everything can look impressive. There's a degree of relativity as far as description goes. If everything is splendorous, than nothing will be splendorous because there will be no contrasts. Kind of like people: if everyone is equally awesome, than everyone is also equally average. If that makes any sense.

    As for action and story things, description is nothing without a story to adhere to. Description alone won't keep the reader turning pages. I find it's always best to blend and "hide" the description within the action. Otherwise, you end with a lot of naked descriptors and modifiers standing on the sidelines looking pretty, waiting for somebody to ask them for a dance.
  5. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    I guess you have to ask why is the description there? If it's just to look pretty, well I'd probably rather just look at a picture. Why read? The description must serve a purpose. Think of a gem stone. It's gorgeous, but on its own it does nothing and most people would not bother with it. It has to be cut, carved, and set. Then, when it has a purpose, such as serving as a necklace or the focus of a crown, then people notice. Then people are interested.

    And that purpose - that's the action.

    So when you write description, ask yourself, why is this here? Why are you writing this?
  6. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Description slows the pace. Modulating the pace to make action more staccato and the periods between roll along more sedately makes the action even more intense.

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