Saturday, April 4, 2015

A to Z Challenge: D is for Description

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

D is for Description!

Descriptions are not my forte. When I sit down to write a description, I do just fine, but it's an element I often forget, especially in my first draft. I can see my world and setting with utter clarity in my mind, but I forget that my reader can't, so I need to describe it to them.

Describing Setting: This hard to give pointers on. You just have to describe it until the reader can see it like you do. (I know, I know. Could I be any more vague?) 
Here are a few tips.

1) Be concise. Excess description will bog down your writing more quickly than just about anything else. There's a lot of temptation to be very wordy, but cut down descriptions as much as possible. Think of them as poetry: you want to say as much as you can in as few words as possible. 

(Did I say tips? I meant tip. :D)

Describing Character: 

You want your readers to see your characters every time they walk into a scene. Their description is what will make them memorable. 

1) Give each character one or more central physical aspects that your reader can focus on when trying to picture them. Hair color, glass, scars, a certain type/fashion of clothing. Doesn't matter, just make sure it's there so your reader can call it to mind when your character's name is mentioned.

2) Try to differentiate your characters. If all of them are blue eyed and blond haired, your readers will not picture them differently. Contrast is king. That said, siblings or related characters looking somewhat alike is a great way to describe and identify your characters. Just don't overuse it.

3) Here's a trick to remind your readers of what your characters look like without re-describing them in each scene. The first time we encounter them, describe them in detail. In each scene they're in thereafter, couple one aspect of the character's description with an action on their part.

Example: Your character is a well-built blacksmith with shaggy brown hair and golden eyes. (Anyone know that character reference?)  Describe him in detail at first. In scenes after that, just make passing references to his appearance to remind your readers. He can run a hand through his shaggy brown hair as he talks; heft a heavy ax across his thick shoulders while he broods; or glare menacingly at people with those golden eyes.

Small references like that will keep the description fresh without being wordy, until your readers can picture that character with perfect clarity. I would suggest doing this at least once per scene that any given character is in. 

How do you go about editing your descriptions?


  1. One or two very distinct attributes (physical, behaviour, even speech pattern) goes a long way, and makes a character way more memorable and interesting.

    1. I agree. And I think that's true of most descriptions. A little goes a long way!

  2. I have to edit my descriptions by adding more. Yeah, I'm such a minimalist...

    1. I am too, Alex. I've had to train myself to go back and add more. Happy Easter! :D

  3. I write for young readers so I usually have to cut and know that illustrations will be an important part of the descriptions. I really like your theme!
    (popping in from the a-z challenge as part of Pam's Unconventional Alliance)

    1. Yeah, illustrations would go a long way toward description. Those of us without the luxury of pictures have to work at it. Good that you put plenty of it in to begin with and have to cut, tho. Go you! That's better than the alternative. :D Happy Easter!

  4. When it comes to describing a character's physical attributes, I have always had a thing for male characters with raven hair and beatnik spectacles.

    1. Sounds like a fun description to play with. Eyewear is something I rarely consider when coming up with a character's description,but I definitely need to. :D Thanks for stopping by!