My Writers Circle

Writing => All the Write Questions => Topic started by: Maria on February 09, 2006, 03:33:01 AM

Title: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Maria on February 09, 2006, 03:33:01 AM
 ??? ??? Help someone, how much description is too much description for people;places etc.  I really can't make my mind up is there a guide to this descriptive lark, SCREAM! SCREAM!

Maria x
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Lin on February 09, 2006, 06:32:00 AM

Hi Maria,

Well my best thoughts on this one is to write about it in general terms, then elaborate on what you've already got.   

Do you think this sentence below is over elaborating?

She sank slowly into her soft cushiony bed with the lacy edges of the eiderdown just touching the floor and the sheets turned back, smelling of soap powder and body odour.  She sighed as she felt the whiteness of the starch in the sheets touching her body and the cold light outside hiding the moon which was vaguely peeking through the clouds in small phases and shining on the edges of her fingers and neatly cut nails which had been trimmed the night before whilst her lover was in the pink flowered bedroom


YEAH ! Maria I  I THINK YOU GET THE IDEA................ So what you have to do is balance the description with the relevance of the story.   Ask yourself exactly how much description do you really need to portray the mood of the character and the plot. Then read it aloud  to yourself, was it easy to read?      I could change this story to the following

She turned down the white starched sheets and the lacy edges of the eiderdown and slowly sank into the soft feather mattrass.   It was cold outside and the moon was vaguely peeking  into the room.   She had just cut her nails and remembered how she had scraped her fingers down the spine of her lover only the night before.

So I know this isn't the perfect description but I hope it shows an example of balance, mood and relevance to the plot.     I suggest you read other authors and see how much of their descriptions are relevant to the story. What do you feel about the descriptions they have used in their books?Were they over elaborating or just right.   Be critical.  Soon you will find your own balance and often its just best to write as you speak and then think about the changes.   

My own formula is to write a sentence, find some words which could improve the value of the sentence and as long as you have some sense of perhaps taste, smell, sound and mood of the character then that should do the trick.   

If you are writing about a place, then describe colour, mood, scenery and people.   If its a person you are wrting about then I suggest, clothing, height, hair colour, eyes, unusual feature and speech.
Any more than this could be distracting.

I hope this helps you and others.   I know its not a magic formula, its only the benfit of my own experience. 

Lin
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Symphony on February 09, 2006, 09:22:38 AM
Hi Maria,

Hard to tell what works and what doesn't because it will depend on your style and, of course, the type of story you're writing. Sometimes you could have whole descriptive passages or, if you're like me, you'll have absolutely NONE! I'm crap at description.

I think the main thing is that description needs to have purpose! It needs to be there because the reader needs to get a feel for the environment, or 'see' the views or understand somebody's character. If it's there simply because the author has decided some description is needed, then it won't work! Contrived description is transparent.

Often, I find that I'll write a passage and then when I re-read and do a quick edit I cut out at least half the adjectives - and it reads so much better!!

On the face of it, I would say that above all else description is definitely about QUALITY rather than QUANTITY. If one sentence will do it, then all the better.

Oh - and now that you've brought up this interesting topic and you've got me thinking about it, I've thought of something else (I'm rambling here, I know - and I haven't even got any clothes on   :-*). Description (for us beginners anyway) often ends up being very 'telly'. Characters don't always need to be described - you can 'show' us exactly what they're like using dialogue and action - and it's so much more interesting.

Does this help? Feels more like a stream of consciousness - sorry! Good subject!

Symphony
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Lin on February 09, 2006, 10:12:07 AM
Hi Maria,

Once again I do like to add that Symphony is quite right about describing through dialogue and action.  I had forgotton about that - my book was accepted on this method and I think that really does work sometimes far better than 'trying to describe' a situation.   Let the characters do that for you.

Just an afterthought from the previous posting.    Anything we can do to help just ask

Lin x

Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Maria on February 09, 2006, 02:51:46 PM
Hi Lin and Symphony,

Thank you for that advice it is really helpful and has cleared my thinking, I can see now what you are getting at.

Maria x
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: chillies on February 10, 2006, 06:17:10 AM
 (I'm rambling here, I know - and I haven't even got any clothes on   ).
I had something very important to say about description, but then Symphony mentioned not having any clothes on, and my thoughts just wondered elsewhere.

chillies
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Symphony on February 10, 2006, 06:23:14 AM
(http://www.coolsmileys.net/happy/laugh1.gif)(http://www.coolsmileys.net/happy/laugh1.gif)(http://www.coolsmileys.net/happy/laugh1.gif)
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: SuzieHarris on February 10, 2006, 07:04:36 AM
Amanda,

I think that little snippet of info classifies as 'TOO MUCH' description! LOL  :o

Put me right off my hot lemon hehe.

Suzie
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: swanlen on March 17, 2006, 07:02:22 AM
Hi, personally I like to include enough description to set the mood, or to show a persons character by what they notice in the room or landscape, eg 'Robin glanced aound the room, he noticed the absence of a tv screen, but warmed to vision of a well stocked drinks cabinet. The room was quite wide, as it took several steps to reach cabinet. So singular were his thoughts, that the exquiste furniture and curtains meant nothing to him. The sheepskin rug only offered a soft lounging spot in front of the roaring fire, for Robin to sip his Southern Comfort.'  I know this is a bit extreme...but I think you'll get what I'm getting at. But don't forget to mention things that are significant to the story... such as some out walking and the description picks up on the types of flowers ...then later in the story, mother says that roses are her favourite and she likes the 'smiling faces' of pansies. Sometimes a description can ramble on that much that a reader forgets what is happening in the story, so try and get everything you need in and maybe a little more, as concisely as possible.
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: johnthewriter on March 18, 2006, 02:52:16 AM
Symphony hit the head in referrence to using dialogue and action to describe rather than, well, describing.

The old adage of "showing" a story instead of "telling" one holds true, although that is often much easier said than done.

Just some things I've learned, or tried to learn (I'm a stubborn student):

Avoid use "being" verbs - i.e. is, was, are, am, been - in deference to action words.
Avoid adverbs if possible, rather choose the right verbs.
Don't use too many adjectives in one sentence.


Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: orchid15 on March 18, 2006, 06:24:21 PM
I feel that the more important something is to a story, the more description it gets.  I don't spend five paragraphs describing a flower that is going to never be refered to again(unless using it to reveal someones mood or past)but a murder weapon or room where the action will happen needs more description.  If you spend time describing something, your reader will expect it to be important.

Orchid15
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: madonna67 on March 19, 2006, 09:37:36 AM
Hi there i'm no expert but when i discribe something or someone i always use 3 discriptions, not all the time but you can get a real feel of something when you express it 3 times. good luck...

Donna
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: SusieQ on March 20, 2006, 02:08:53 PM
First learn to use spell check, even you Lin because mattress is spelled this way not,.. mattrass....
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Mary Ann on March 21, 2006, 11:26:18 AM
I have just been reading a Barbara Taylor Bradford's "A Woman Of Substance". and I love the book, but but but... she does take a whole page describing a room sometimes.  Her description of the moors where the main-story-beginning is set is necessary because it really takes us up there with her heroine, but how do we feel about having a whole page describing a room?  And not just one room, but every single room anyone goes into in the whole book?

She has a wonderful way of descrbing things mind you, I must say she is very good at it, but after a while, I found myself scanning through a lot of the description.  Just a bit too much for my liking, That's not to take away from her, I loved the book, as I said, but I just wondered how others felt about tons of description if it doesn't really move the story on or really add that much to the characters or story or  plot?

Mary Ann
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: SusieQ on March 21, 2006, 11:39:41 AM
So many authors do that it's called filling pages.....they must have a certain numbers of words to submit, and they either don't realize how boring it get's or they don't care,  well I'm pleased my first and only novel so far has none of that...gibberish, I call it or TMI, plus, I never read Daniele Steele, my god how boring and repetitious can an author get, I know what's going to be on the next page before I turn it, gave up on her novels quite some time ago, my friend still reads her occasionally and tells me they have not changed except for one about the loss of her son....? Just can't understand all the fans of her and the money she makes on them must all be dumb as a box or rocks..
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Lin on March 21, 2006, 11:44:48 AM
Suzie Q,

If I could have a Euro for every spelling mistake I see on Writers Circle I would make a fortune. I choose not to comment as its rather destructive for some people.  I rarely make spelling errors, only unseen typos and I found your comments rather harsh!!   

Lin
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Mary Ann on March 21, 2006, 12:00:57 PM
Well, Barbara Taylor Bradford did write a very good book with Woman Of Substance, I can't fault the story or her writing ability, I can't speak for Danielle Steele but I do know she gets a lot of her books made into films for television--so I guess a lot of people do like her work. 

But with Barbara Taylor Bradford, I don't think the reason for her descriptions can possibly be 'page filling', somehow.  There are over 800 pages, and that's quite a lot, so I think 'page-filling' can hardly be her reason.  Perhaps she just loves putting descriptive sentences together or something.  Personally I am not in favour of long descriptions, even though it gives us the opportunity to show our skills in sentence construction etc.  She also uses a lot of adverbs and most of her sentences seem to be passive, which people usually seem to frown on, so I get a few mixed messages on all this. Do we listen to the how-to books on writing which say 'don't do it' or do we look at the work of much-published authors and follow their lead, or maybe we do both?  Oh, well.

I will have a look at Danielle Steele by the way... I have a book of hers someplace I haven't read yet... and see how she does it; you have roused my interest in her hahaha...

Mary Ann
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Mary Ann on March 21, 2006, 12:09:55 PM
Suzie Q,

If I could have a Euro for every spelling mistake I see on Writers Circle I would make a fortune. I choose not to comment as its rather destructive for some people.  I rarely make spelling errors, only unseen typos and I found your comments rather harsh!!   

Lin

Yes, I agree with you here, Lin.  We all make spelling mistakes or typo's and unless we are to spend as much time editing or messages on a board as we do our creative-writing, we have to forgive ourselves and others for the odd typo now and then.

Mary Ann
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: SusieQ on March 21, 2006, 12:28:06 PM
First of all I was referring to the original post...forget what it was now but even that was written badly, and these people claim to be authors? then Lin the moderator commented and misspelled a word, and if you think that was harsh Lin...boy oh boy are you in the wrong business, way to thin skinned to be submitting anything for criticism..... and yes all these authors fill pages some do it and keep it interesting others, many do not, and because I read so many, I find it curious how one gets hold of a topic, they all just follow and jump on the same wagon......shows how creative or imaginative they really are....not! one author I really enjoy is Karen Robards... that Gal can write!!!!!if you ever get hold of "Heartbreaker" read it you won't be disappointed! and don't kid yourself for a minute they all have help...... only a few do the writing all by themselves, well I don't, as far as facts etc, who cares it's Fiction....
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: SuzieHarris on March 21, 2006, 01:27:15 PM
SusieQ

Can I remind you yet AGAIN to not be personal in your comments. This is the second time I have warned you about being offensive today. Third time and you are out!

Suzie

Moderator.
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Telcontar on March 21, 2006, 02:16:37 PM
Hi Suzie,

Oh dear, and I was just going to ask SusieQ who this 'Daniele Steele' is that she mentioned in one of her previous posts. (And that is a copy-and-paste)

Dave.

PS and if that counts as me getting 'personal', I apologise...
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Lin on March 21, 2006, 03:09:24 PM
I personally apologise to all our members for any negativities which occurred in this topic.   We do not take kindly to personal comments about our members.   

We have no need to be thick skinned here or destructive, mywriterscircle.com is there to provide help and encourage new writers for the future.  If you have any complaints you must direct them off the site to the Moderators so that we can deal with them tactfully and in a positive way.

I thank you all for your understanding.

Lin
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Bob B. on March 22, 2006, 04:48:56 AM
     This is a good question, and the only answer I could offer would be to re-read your stuff with an objective eye.  The question I always ask myself is: does it "read" like a REAL book or REAL article?  In other words, setting ego and the sweat you've put into it aside, does the writing seem like something you might read in a published piece of writing.  If not, what about it seems different or out of place?  I remember being awfully frustrated early on because what I was writing did not "feel" like other published material I was reading.  I'm not talking about style matters so much (although that certainly enters into it) but the over all balance and flavor of the piece.  Does the dialogue seem real or stilted? do the descriptions add to your understanding of the scene or get in the way of understanding, etc.  Work through the piece if you're in doubt (much easier now with computers).  Try changing words, rearranging sentences, changing lengths of sentences, etc. until you're satisfied that it is something you would read if it had been written by someone else.
Title: Re: HELP!!!!!
Post by: Lin on March 22, 2006, 05:11:25 AM
Hello Bob,

Yes I totally agree with you that if a job is worth doing its worth doing well, but on Writers Circle, most of us are writing how we speak, its a relaxed way to post a topic(referring to previous posts!) and it really doesnt matter too much if we mis-spell something or produce a typo error.  I am sure we would all use our spell checker etc and check our style if we were submitting our work to a publisher.

It is of paramount importance that everything is 'ship shape and Bristol fashion' for that purpose and I think most of us would take what you say on board as being absolute.   Thank you for your post I am sure this is a good common sense attitude.

Lin