Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Description

I was working through a revision of my new manuscript and I realized that sometimes my language wasn’t as precise as it could be because I wasn’t showing or telling the reader what was going on in my character’s mind. Also in description, I wasn’t always putting the reader there by being there with my character. What did the way he saw his surroundings mean to how he was experiencing what was happening? This is at a language level; it’s so important to making a connection with the reader.

Here’s an example of what I’m thinking.

"The trees were green. "

(Very generic. Okay, they’re green. It tells the reader just that much).

"The thick green of the trees closed around him."

Okay, not great but that gives a sense of how the character feels. You have the adjective "thick" which gives a certain feeling to the green. You have the “closed around him” to give a sense of claustrophobia. It charges the sentence with something troubling, even vaguely threatening. OR

"The sun slipped through the thick, leafy trees and warmed his face as he made his way up the path."

VERY different feel. Leafy gives an entirely different feeling than the “thick” in green but objectively the thing being described, a dense woods, is similar. The “sun slipped through “makes the reader imagine patches of light which is a good feeling. Then “warmed his face” is pleasant and comforting.

Same place but different choices make the reader experience it differently.

2 comments:

Anne M Leone said...

I really struggle with this. Not so much at the word level, but just noticing when I do it. I think I must get so fixated on describing everything going on, I forget to stay in my character's head.

brian yansky said...

Me, too. I guess we're lucky we get a lot of chances in revision.