If you caught my pity-filled blog last Friday (GH day 32) you already know that I received my business cards and hate them. Okay, hate may be too strong of a word. Disappointed is a better descriptor. I am a writer after all, I should know how best to describe something right? Right?
That is the crux of today’s blog. Description. As a writer describing a scene it can be both wonderful and overwhelming at the same time. As a scene unfolds in my head I see it in glorious 3-D and boy does it make sense to me. But that doesn’t always translate to the page for the reader. This can be particularly true if you have multiple characters in a scene. Ask yourself:
Who is where at what time? What is everyone saying? What is everyone doing?
And the complexity doesn’t stop there (oh come on!). Because once you have answers to those questions, you have to decide how much detail you place in a scene. Too little and your reader is confused. Too much and your reader is annoyed or asleep depending on the rambling you set to paper. You have to find a middle ground. Ask yourself these questions to help determine who or what should be described:
- Who is the main character in the scene? (ie whose head are you in). You better be describing what is happening around them and how they are affected (very important).
- What is the most important thing that happens in the scene?
- How are the characters changed by the scene?
- Does the description help move the scene along to a natural conclusion?
So description isn’t as easy as you thought, huh? For me, I have a tendency to write fast-paced which means I don’t include a huge amount of description. So for those crucial scenes in my manuscripts I revisit them and try to determine if I am giving the reader enough to immerse themselves in the words. And it always helps to have someone else read your work (yes, put your ego aside). Someone who isn’t seeing the scene in their head, but is creating the scene from your words. They can then let you know if it isn’t working for them.
Don’t be afraid to – explain, picture, narrate, portray, depict, and expound on those scenes, but if you hear snoring from your critique group while you’re reading, you might need to dial back the detail, just a tidge!