Thursday, June 6, 2013

5 Ways to Add In-depth Description to Your Story!

Hello! Today I want to share with you some helpful ways you can add more in-depth description to your writing, whether it be short stories, novels, or novellas.
    I don't know how often I will post these "writing tips" posts, but I'll try to do them as often as I can. These posts will usually be things that I've learned myself on my journey through writing two novels (my first one I chucked years ago) and getting one published. So bear with me...

#1 - Don't Be Simple - Be Complex.

    One thing I've noticed about writing is that you can't get by with "simple-minded" writing. If you want people to be captured by your story, you need to enhance them with beautiful, fluid prose.
    Don't try to dumb down your writing in hopes that even the youngest reader will understand what you mean. Now, I'm not saying you should go grab a dictionary, find the most complicated word and toss it into your manuscript. The point is to make your writing so fluid that the main thing the reader focuses on is the story itself. You don't want your reader to be distracted by how simple and nondescript that word, phrase, or sentence is. However, at the same time you don't want them to have to grab a dictionary and look up a big, complicated word because they have no idea what it means, nor do they know what you are trying to say.
    Below are some examples of simple-minded writing as opposed to writing with stronger prose:
    "Jack walked into the room and sat down on the chair. He picked up the remote and pressed the button that pointed up." (simple-minded)
    "Jack strolled into the room and plopped down onto the recliner. He grabbed the remote and began to flip through the channels." (stronger prose)
    See what I mean? Stronger prose makes reading much more pleasurable.

#2 - Consult a Dictionary Every Now and Then.

    I know I said above that you shouldn't try to find the most complicated word in the dictionary, but that doesn't mean you should avoid dictionaries like the plague. One thing I like to do is if I find a really descriptive word that conjures an image in my mind as I'm going about my day, I tell myself that I am going to use that word. I've based entire scenes off of one descriptive word or phrase before.
    If you use Microsoft Word, then you likely have the built in dictionary application (right click on a word, select "look up").
    Another thing I like to do is: if I find a word to be too boring or nondescript I will try to find a better synonym for that word.
    Depending on how you use one, a dictionary can either be a tool to help build your writing to its highest peak, or it can be a weapon that will eventually cause your story to crumble.

#3 - Paint a Picture - Show, Don't Tell.

    Now, I'm not saying you should go to the art store and buy a bunch of painting supplies (though, yes, art helps). I'm talking about painting the picture that you want your readers to see in their mind's eye when they read the manuscript to which you've dedicated so much of your time.
    People read stories because they want to escape to another world; but in order to do that, they need to be able to clearly envision the story world. It isn't enough to tell, you have to show. Yes, I realize that saying has been floating all over the interweb, but it's true.
    The point of writing is so that you can invite others into a world you've created so that they can share in the enjoyment. However, what if you are the only who can picture it because you aren't writing descriptively enough? You don't want a bunch of different people guessing things in different ways because you didn't paint a picture for them. Yes, people are going to get their own ideas about how things are in your story because of the way their minds have received it. But you want to be able to control the parameters. Don't let your story be based on the guesses of the readers, create a firm foundation and paint a pretty picture that will draw more and more readers in. That's what we all want, isn't it? A broad range of dedicated readers?
    Here are the same examples I used earlier highlighted again:
   "Jack walked into the room and sat down on the chair. He picked up the remote and pressed the button that pointed up." (A broad description, simple, nothing that reader will take from the book with that "wow!" feeling)
   "Jack strolled into the room and plopped down onto the recliner. He grabbed the remote and began to flip through the channels." (A picture painted for the reader, so that the reader can envision the scene clearly)
    Another picture you want to paint for your readers is your characters' emotions. You want your readers to feel like they really know the characters. You want to open a door that allows the reader to step inside your character's shoes.
    "Amy cried. Her brother had died and she was sad." (Boring! This sentence does nothing to invite the reader into your characters' lives.
    "Amy sobbed, tears flowing down her face in pained abandon. She wept over the memory of the one she had lost; her brother, the one person she could count on, the one person who truly cared about her. What was she to do without him?" (There, now isn't that better? It was almost painful reading the first sentence, wasn't it?)

#4 - Provide a Firm Foundation.

    To me, the beginning of a story is the opportune time to begin building the foundations upon which the entire story-world will be based.
    At the beginning of my stories, I like to show my character's personality (yes, character traits can pop up at different times in a story), I like to show my readers the world I've invited them into. The point is to guide your reader through your world using descriptive prose. Remember, "Show, Don't Tell".
    Examples given below:
    "The planet was lush, flowers bloomed in the forests and birds chirped." (Though this sentence is quite descriptive, it is an example of telling. Remember, you want to take your reader on a journey and show them your world. Telling is boring.)
    "Amelia sighed with satisfaction. Her world was lush and green foliage provided a blanket for Mother Earth; the blooming flowers were nature's decorations. She could not help but be overwhelmed with elation as the birds sang, darting through the sky overhead." (See what I mean? This sentence may not be the perfect example of showing, but it gives you the idea.)
    Build your world. I love stories that include histories and democracy. Usually, those elements are a sign of a story that has had a lot of work put into building the foundation. Sure, things like that can be boring (you want plot, you want action and intrigue, and depth, right?), but when they are blended perfectly with your story, it becomes something that sticks with the reader. The reader begins to feel like they really know the world you've created for them. That's what we want, right? A satisfied reader?

#5 - DON'T Be Repetitive!

    Gah! I hate repetitiveness! When I read a book, I want to be shown new stuff, I don't want the writer to put information that's already been revealed into a paragraph slot in every chapter. If you read my review of Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, then you know that she fell victim to the beast. Yes, I still loved the book, but beware of the monster that sneaks in the shadows, ready to strike you with the dreaded need to provide "filler" just so you can up your word count!
    Here is an example from my own WIP:
    "The wolf continued circling them until it finally pounced on Jake. Its entire body landed on top of Jake, but he used the momentum of the creature to thrust his sword deep into its gut. As the wolf scrambled on top of him, Jake used his legs to kick the beast off of him." (Notice how instead of using the word "wolf" over and over again, I selected to to other words to fend off repetitiveness?)
    Guess what? You can slay the dragon too! Don't let repetitiveness be the cause of your demise as a writer, be creative, use different descriptions, words, and phrases!

Thanks for reading my lengthy post. I hope it helped you in some way.

Until the next time,

I look forward to hearing from you! Feel free to leave a comment!

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