As a writer I'm constantly trying to figure out what I can do better, how I can write as good as so and so and yet keep it still me. So I love to read how-to books. I have a sideways stack of them behind the laptop on my desk, and I try to refer to them often.
My latest endeavor is a book called Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively.
I often try so hard to be descriptive that I get too wordy, which I've been told is the problem with my YA Fantasy Tears. I'm looking forward to getting it back from Eric Elfman, a freelance editor, who has had my first four chapters for nearly a month. Hurry up, Eric!
Anyway, in Word Painting, Rebecca McClanahan gives four ways to make description effective and bases her methods off Aristotle's writings.
1. Good description is carefully worded. While you need to name someone or something directly and give correct terms for people, places, or events being described, "good description goes beyond accuracy and precision to include the musical qualities of language."
I love this! Because writing and words in the right order can definitely be musical (and I'm a music nut anyway).
2. Good description is sensory. It makes the reader "see things." A salty kiss, a dancer's leap. Readers need to "see" what is being described or experience it through their senses.
3. Good description represents things in a "state of activity." Good description can create the illusion of movement and bring things to life.
4. Good description often uses metaphor and other figurative language. (Though it can be overdone. Agent Mary Kole has a great post about overwriting here.)
McClanahan adds that even if your description has each of these elements, it has to fit the story to be effective. "A five-hundred word description of a deserted barn might ruin the suspense of one story yet supply a breathtaking climax for another."
She also says these are only starting points, not rules to be blindly followed.
What Makes Good Description?
Descriptions Thursday, September 1, 2011
I'm a mother, a Mormon and a musician, and I squee over all things pink and sparkly. I write books about doors that shouldn't be opened and enchanted tears that shouldn't be shed. I'm the proud wife of a farmer, and we live in a dinky Idaho farm town where the chances of getting stuck in tractor-induced traffic jams are highly likely. I believe anything can be made better with a good attitude and maybe a book packed away for those just-in-case times.