I think that most of us don't have a "problem" with the first type of descriptive writing. We do it almost automatically. Robert J. Sawyer gives excellent examples of this on his web site - On Writing: description. Here's one:
It was almost midnight when McTaggart made the decision.
"I think," he said, "that we should go closer."Even though the other characters do nothing, their inaction communicates their nervousness, their failing resolve, their fear that their leader has gone over the edge. Try it without the description:
The others stared at him.
"Maybe fifteen miles away."
Nobody said a word.
"Force their hand."
"I think that we should go closer. Maybe fifteen miles away. Force their hand."Nothing. No tension. No suspense. Description isn't padding — it's the heart and soul of good writing.
Rob (who incidentally started his own blog) has more examples, go read.
As for the other type of description, that's the tricky one, at least for me. I'm never one to follow techniques, so I'm just going to take some of principals that apply to descriptive essays and try to adjust them to fiction writing:
As in all writing, in order to write good a description we must know what we're describing.
To help in the memorizing process, we can think of our senses, draw on them for help: what did we see, hear, smell, taste and feel (physically and emotionally)? What did we think?
Of course, not everything we describe is facts or memories. Many times we describe things from our imagination. The details should be as specific.
In the first instance we might describe how enjoyable it is to walk the little paths under the canopy of trees (that give the walker shelter from the sun) while hearing children laughter from the playground.
In the second instance, we might describe how scary it is to quickly walk the littered paths that lie among the big ominous trees (that seem to be closing in on the walker) while eyeing the homeless that is sprawled on a bench.
If we do this right and choose the right details along with the right verbs, adverbs and adjectives, the reader will be able to walk in the park with the protagonist, visualizing it through our details.
Many of us bloggers actually write descriptive essays daily. Easywriter hasn't been very active lately but her posts are fictional descriptive prose gems. Go through her archives to see what I mean.
I think that just writing this post already helped me in understanding the importance of descriptive language and how to do it better. Any more advice, comments on the matter?
Categories: writing, description, process