Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Too much description (or enough with the plants already)

Tip of the Day: want a good laugh? Check out some of these "de"motivational posters.

Most of my first drafts are written in movie format. And by that I mean it's bare bones scenes that just include dialogue and then people entering a room and exiting a room, but really no description of said room at all.

"Sitting in the principal’s office on Monday morning when I was supposed to be in Biology, I couldn’t help but notice it was my second visit here in the past two weeks." The extent of my descriptions include merely stating what room they are in. At least at first.

Then comes the tricky part: how descriptive should you be?

Chances are high that everyone has been inside of a principal's office before or at the very least a school office, so is it really necessary to describe if it had "light tan walls, large square tile floors, and a plant sitting on the corner of the desk." Snooze fest. Especially when the plant has absolutely no relevance.

It's definitely a fine balance. If you are too descriptive, the reader gets bored and puts the book down. If you don't have enough description, then the reader can't get into the story because they can't visualize the people or places.

One of the things I try to do when I add in descriptions is to make them relevant to the situation at hand. Otherwise I leave them out. For example, in this case maybe it would have been important to point out if there was "ironically a teamwork poster hung low on the wall that said 'when we all work together, we all win together.' When dealing with Heather McHeather this couldn't be further from the truth." This is a quick example, but you get the picture. It not only helps set the scene, but does double duty by giving the reader another feel of the situation.

So what are some of your tips for writing good description? Both with what to hold back on and what to include.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

1 comment:

Kate Fall said...

Ha, I once wrote a vice-principal's office that had a Salvidor Dali print of melting clocks "so he could pretend to be open minded." That was a particularly paranoid viewpoint character, with that middle school attitude of "of course he doesn't have his own likes and dislikes, he's just out to get me." Our principal and vice-principal are probably related!