marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

details, details

What do things look like in your scene?  Sound like?  Smell like?  Feel like?  How hot is it?  How cold is it?

Sense details.  You can have too many, but your story will often be dry and cardboard without some.  And still pretty flat if you stick to visual details.

Can get interesting, picking and choosing.  For one thing, the details chosen characterize your POV character.  One story I was wrestling with how much I could put in without changing the rather cerebral character of the heroine and POV.  (Plus, of course, they will load the language, but they have to chose what to report before they chose how to.)

And while the details of action can be very dry indeed, large chunks of description are notoriously prone to be skipped over.  They've got to be interwoven.  For which the rule that I have found useful has been:   Avoid the linking verbs in sentences of "X was Y" or even "X felt Y".  Hang the description off the action sentence, an adjective off the noun, or a verbal phrase, or even a subordinate clause.  You can go too far with that and overload the sentence, but "A pot boiled on the fire.  It was three-legged and black with soot." can be hung together as "A three-legged pot, black with soot, boiled on the fire." 

Even actions that are really descriptions, such as "The bushes blossomed with ruby red roses." can make it less lumpy -- though it's wise to keep an eye on them.  Intersperse them with the heroine's coming through the garden, say.  That includes verbs that just tell you where the character is.  "Stood" for instance.  Still, they tend to be better than linking verbs.
Tags: characterization, description, narrative voice, point of view, writing technique

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