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Descriptive Writing

“We are all apprentices in a craft that no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

Descriptive writing. That and character dialogue make up most of a novel. I personally abhor books that drag on and on and on with descriptions. Others might enjoy the lengths authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien go to set a scene, but I tend to strive for a quick action, movie like approach to writing. Sometimes I find myself feeling smug in the fact that if my book has any problem, its briefness, not excessive descriptions. However, have I taken my intent to be more brief too far?

You need a perfect blend of descriptiveness to make a scene (and novel) work. In some areas you will need to cut or revise descriptions. In others, you will need to add. Below are some ideas for revising, cutting, or adding descriptions.

Idea #1: Let your characters “describe” during their dialogue. Let them discuss what it is you are trying to get your reader to envision.

Idea #2: Most of the time, less is more. Try to keep this in mind. It’s hard to not have enough description. Oftentimes, your (intelligent) reader will fill in any gaps you leave with their imagination. This is typically a good thing. Give a framework, but allow your readers individual and unique imagination to create the rest of the scene.

Idea #3: Sprinkle descriptions. You might want to cut that huge paragraph (or paragraphs) you have setting the scene and spread the description through the scene as your character interacts with it.

Idea 4#: Ensure your descriptions add to the story and move it forward. Don’t add description for it’s own sake. Sometime it’s tempting to describe things that are relatively irrelevant to the story. Don’t do that. Even if you have a great description of a character but that character doesn’t really play a role in the story, leave it out. Only describe what you must.

I love great descriptions. They really add to a story. But remember, when it comes to descriptions, quality is better than quantity.

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