Saturday, July 14, 2007

Making Description Count

So one of the more insipid aspects of storytelling is description. Description of places are often, the room was big, it had a couch and a dozen tables with chairs and a band playing a waltz. Yawnsville. Or of people, the bellhop was old with gray hair bright blue eyes.

Now my question for you is what do these descriptions tell you about the observer? Nothing, not a cotton-picking thing. And that's the key to making description pop and be a worthwhile aspect of storytelling. How does it affect the character? So let me try this again.

criteria for description
1) There better be a reason. Description is like all other aspects of storytelling, if your character notices something, I guarantee you they've got an opinion about whatever drew their eye. Connected to this is, be mindful of your character's mental state, it affects what they notice.

2) Be as specific as the character can be if it's a rose and s/he knows that then say rose, if it's a peony and your character couldn't tell if it's a peony or a geranium or a for-get-me not, then say purple flower.

3) Don't try to cover everything in one paragraph of condensed let's-get-this-out-of-th- way, description. It's okay to, preferred even, sprinkle it in as you go. A person can notice maybe 2 or three details at a time. Especially, if there are tons of things to notice. I just did this experiment I glanced (maybe 5 seconds) at the shelf over my desk. I noticed the printer, the camera and three black metal mesh holders.

I did not notice in that the first glance that the largest mesh holder that sits behind the camera was empty or the picture that leans against the wall and has a purple border or the cable modem. Try that experiment yourself.

The room was cavernous. Angie felt tiny and moved behind father a bit.

"It's okay, honey." He laid a big pa hand on her shoulders. "Why don't you go sit over there?" He pointed to a seating area in the middle of the lobby.

The couch looked extra comfy with a high round cushings and little blue pale flowers. Angie sprinted over and jumped and turned mid-air, landing swithk. The cushion wasn't soft, it itched the back of her thighs, but she bounced on it anyway.

1 comment:

Mima said...

i thought this was a really useful post. i have to remember about the opinion. the char is observing, describing, and *feeling* something about that observation.