Currently, I am reading my way through The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. This book inspires me to really look at my writing on a deeper level. I’ve been reading while also working my way through the editing process of the novel I wrote. This practice has caused me to be a better editor. Each week the chapters give me something new to think about and focus on in the editing process which in turn is making me a better writer. First drafts can be pretty terrible, but Gerke’s book is helping me polish my work. This week the focus is on description.
According to Gerke, description is, “text that portrays the appearance of characters, items, and locations.” (Gerke 25) At first glance a non-writer might look at the argument of description and think that any book without it cannot be worth reading. However there is a major distinction between narrative and description. Narrative portrays action while description describes the nouns of the story. Believe it or not many publishers are anti-description. Many authors are as well. They feel that overdoing the description can stifle a reader’s experience. By dictating how a reader should envision something the description can sometimes keep a reader from connecting with a book on a genuine level.
There are some authors who completely omit description while others spend page upon page laying out each scene fluffed with description. There has to be some middle ground, right!?!
What Do You Think?
If you are unsure how you feel about this argument, pull a couple of books you have read recently. Get a few books you absolutely loved and a few that you utterly hated (and maybe never finished.) Re-read a few pages from anywhere in the book. Tally up which books use description heavily, moderately, and not at all. If you are anything like me you may discover something about yourself as a reader.
When I looked at my stack of books I preferred books with the moderate level of description. The books I loathed all had either heavy levels of description or none at all. Those which came in heavy on the description are those I would refer to as slow and boring books. Those that contained none at all I would refer to as books with which I never made a true connection. The plot might have been fine, but I never felt like I became part of the world along with the characters. To figure this one out give it a try yourself! Grab some books off your shelf and explore.
My Current Project…
My preferences in description tend to be natural. As I wrote my first draft of my novel there was nothing going on in my mind except the plot. I didn’t focus on grammar, editing, and I definitely didn’t think twice about description. I wrote to get my ideas on a page. But as I go back and edit my earlier work I see that I stayed fairly consistent in my use of description. I am a moderate descriptionist meaning that I recognize the need for description in forging connections to characters, setting, and scene. However, I also know that for many readers (like myself) going overboard on the description can lead to reader boredom.
This is one reason why it is so imperative that writers are also readers. It’s hard to write a book if you don’t have the experiences of reading so many. Writing,for me, has been a natural process born of abilities and enjoyment for reading.
The more books you read the more clear your writing voice becomes.
The Ameri Brit Mom