Friday, May 16, 2008

It's all in the details

Tip of the Day: Keep a journal where you can write down certain details about something you notice that might come in handy someday when you are writing a scene.

I went for a glorious walk last night. It was warm with a slight breeze, the sun was setting in the distance creating a canvas of pink and orange, and Mt. Hood was a sight to behold in the distance. But you know what I noticed the most? All of the wonderful smells. One minute it was lilacs, the next it was barbecued hamburgers, and the next it was laundry softener.

So often in our writing we simply describe a scene visually. We forget that there are other things we might experience at any given moment. The sound of birds chirping, the smell of dinner cooking, or the feel of a cashmere sweater on the skin.

In my revision presentation tomorrow, I'm going to talk about the need to go through your manuscript when the first draft is done and think about adding details that will ground the reader in your scene. There should be a balance of sights, smells, and sounds. It should seem natural. What would you be likely to notice MOST in a restaurant, for example? The sight of people around you, the smell of the food, or the clanking of dishes? Perhaps it depends on what kind of restaurant it is?

For some people, the details come easily. I'm not one of those people. Some writers can go on for three pages describing the scene. I'm lucky if I can come up with two sentences. Which is probably why I'm so drawn to writing in verse. So in my revisions, I'm always thinking about how I can make something more clear. More crisp. More real. Other writers often go on too much, and have to take out the chain saw and hack away so the reader doesn't throw the book down in despair because nothing is happening.

What about you? Are you a pro at setting the scene, or do you have to work hard at it, like me?

~Lisa, Miss Pinch Me I'm Pubbed

8 comments:

Kate Fall said...

I think I'm terrible at scene setting. I'm better at the quick "one memorable detail" description of people than places. Especiallly if they're mundane places like "classroom" or "kitchen." I wish I could write "Just picture your own classroom or kitchen. That will be good enough."

I'm thinking of the difference between describing an unusual place, like a haunted house, and setting a scene. I can do the former but I need work on the latter. Like you said, it's finding that detail that stands out.

DeenaML said...

Oh dear, no, I don't do well with setting scenes. Lisa, I need to hear your talk! In my head, I see the scene PERFECTLY and therefore assume the reader can, too, with minor details. Sadly, no. I've been told more needs to be described. I am working on it!

~paulette said...

i need to buy more oil for my chainsaw--it gets used far too much. i'm not bragging in the least, but my writer's group deamed me "queen of Show don't Tell". but trust me, it gets me into tons of trouble. i just finished the first 1/3 of my book and it ranked out at 40-something-thousand words! EEK. I have a tough time knowing what needs to stay and what needs to hit the dump!

Emily Marshall said...

Good luck on the presentation!

I'm horrible at setting scenes. I actually write my first drafts more like a screenplay and add in details later. For some reason they come to me as more dialogue than setting. Then once I have that and add what I think is enough detail, Deena always tells me to add more :)

Kristina Springer said...

Ok-- Deena is fibbing. She is great with details!! At least by the draft I see. I however, am not so good at them. I totally have to go back and add them in and even then it's probably not enough.

Kristina Springer said...

Ok-- Deena is fibbing. She is great with details!! At least by the draft I see. I however, am not so good at them. I totally have to go back and add them in and even then it's probably not enough.

Kristina Springer said...

Sorry for the double post!

Lisa Schroeder said...

So, most of us are "adders" as in needing to add during our revisions. Except for Paulette. She is a "cutter." Which sounds terrible. I sort-of envy you, Paulette! :)