Words are to writing as colors are to painting. Just because we have a vast collection of colors doesn’t mean we can paint like Renoir, just the same applies to words. Just because we have a vast collection of words doesn’t mean we can write like…Ursula Leguin.
In continuing that journey towards publication, I need to continue developing “the craft”. One thing that drives me nuts is…descriptions.
These are few of my weaknesses and how I have countered them.
• That word in the back of my mind that eludes me…whatchamacallit…and not the candy bar. Vocabulary. In order to describe effectively we need to stay away from labeling the object but we need to be able to name it, give a precise image, and make it flow as if it was easy. Yeah, it is harder than it sounds. How can we do this? Research, reading, and just plain expanding your vocabulary.
• Remember, descriptions are only effective if it serves the larger story. It needs to move the story forward. In other words, why am I describing this? Does it matter? It kills me when I read through someone’s work on a critique board and a fellow critic says the description does not work. Apart from obvious errors that may occur when describing and can be, in confidence, pointed out, description should only be examined with the overall work, not a snippet of a scene. One writer that comes to my mind that can write a whole chapter, or even more, of description is Dean Koontz. It works because he knows the craft and how to use it.
• Use sensory images that invoke feelings. Our readers want to live your dream. This can include using figurative language. Be aware of clichés. This can give you flexibility to use your creativity. Example: Her anger was layered like an old onion, dry on the skin but once you got deeper, it got juicier. (Okay, I like Shrek’s onion metaphor.)
• In motion descriptions. Visualize the scene and break it down into various parts. You can juice it up with your onion later.
A good book to consider is Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan.