Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Descriptive Tips for Writing Fiction

Yesterday, I spent some time looking around the web, and found M. M. Vaughan’s website. She wrote the book The Ability which I’m currently reading. I took a moment to look through her blog and came across an interesting article. “WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle” By ELMORE LEONARD (Published: July 16, 2001, NY Times)

I found the points that he made about writing fascinating. But the last three rules I seriously took to heart and plan on working hard to use in my own writing.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Personally, I don’t like heavy descriptions of characters. Growing up, the one thing I didn’t like about “reading comprehension” was the removal of my personal influence over reading a story. Believe it or not, this was one of the reasons I didn’t like to read when I was in school. I found myself constantly changing out the characters in the book for my friends which made the book more relatable to me.

I doubt, I’ll remove all descriptions; but I’m starting to believe that it’s better to only say what the story needs, i.e. less is more.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

The Messengers is a sci-fantasy concept which takes a good amount of description to grasp. But one of my beta readers showed me that I don’t have to re-explain the obvious.  Readers assume the average. We don’t have to explain a “breathing man” because we know unless a person is dead, they are breathing. But, we have to explain a “blind man” since the average person can see.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The final tip, is the hardest part for me. I’ve learned that an author can never satisfy 100% of the readers. One person will enjoy long descriptive paragraphs while another will hate it. One person will claim the world isn’t detailed enough and another person will fill in the gaps with their imagination. So, what do readers skip? Honestly, right now I don’t know the answer to this. I don’t even have a true answer for any of these, but putting this information into my mind allows me to consider it every time I add words to a page.

Lucky for me, I come from the movie world where it’s all about “get in and get out.” You learn quickly that a viewer who thought your ninety movie was awesome, can hate it when it reaches 105 minutes.  Independent films proved to me that while the average viewer will watch Tom Cruise for two hours wondering what he is doing; they will not view an actor they’re unfamiliar with in the same situation. Part of storytelling is familiarity with characters, setting, and trusting those in charge. Trust comes from a relationship that has to be built. After Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling built up a relationship with her readers, and they trusted her as the books got longer. I doubt she would have had the same success if the first book was 700 pages.

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