Where Did I Put My Tiara

The life unglamorous . . .

My Photo
Location: Utah, United States

see biography at http://www.marjoriejones.com

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Don't Use A Lot of Descriptions

This is a schmule I've heard occasionally and when I put out a call for so-called rules among my writer friends, this one caught my attention.
The general concept is that a lot of description bores the reader.  Readers skip the descriptions and look for action and dialogue.  Excuse me?  If I spend my hard-earned money on a book, I'm reading every single word of it.  If the story is boring or badly written, I simply put the book down and don't pick it up again.  But I don't skip passages to get to the good stuff.  That's just silly.
I suppose if the schmule were modified a little, it could have some merit.  For instance:  Don't include a lot of boring, insignificant descriptions in your book.  Of course, we could just as easily say, "Don't include a lot of boring, insignificant dialogue in your book," or, "Don't include a lot of boring, insignificant action in your book," as well, so what would be the point?
Fact is, if the words we write are written well, people will read them.  How can one create a whole world between the covers if we don't use description?  What kind of descriptions is this schmule talking about?  I'll tell you what kind:  The boring kind.
The snow was white.  Oooookay.  We get it.
The snow glistened with tiny, sparking diamonds beneath the warmth of a mid-morning sun. 
The snow shimmered, creating a blinding apocalypse undaunted by the warmth of a mid-morning sun.
Both of the sentences above are pure description.  They both create a different idea of what the sun means.  In the first, our heroine might be strolling along a country pathway, deep in thought, anticipating a bright future with her man.  The second changes the face of the snow from a gorgeous, crisp winter day to a monster intent upon destruction.  Why?  Who knows.  That's up to you.  Perhaps the POV character has been in a plane crash in the Alps.  Maybe the heroine is snowed in with the villian and the snow is a barrier keeping her from saving herself, or the hero from saving her.
Point is, we need description to offset and compliment our action and our dialogue.  People only talk when they have something to say.  If the heroine in the first example is alone, she's isn't going to say, "Gosh, the snow is glistening with tiny, sparking diamonds beneath the warmth of the mid-morning sun."  At least, she's not going to say it aloud unless her hero is an orderly at the local mental hospital and she's cruisin' for a way to meet him. 
I can see a conversation for the second example, thought.  Bear with me:
"The snow is shimmering, Bob."
"Yeah, I know.  It's creating a blinding apocalypse."
"You're right.  It's completely undaunted by the warmth of the mid-morning sun."
Errr... NOT.
Description is a critical part of our novels.  It creates the scenes in which our characters act and speak.  It's all a balancing act.  Description (the NON-boring kind) merges with dialogue and action to create the finished product. 
No description?  Puh-leeze!


Post a Comment

<< Home