Monday, December 10, 2007

Active Description

Being character-centric as I am, I focus on dialogue a lot. The journal story I'm writing, which technically has very little dialogue in it, is really like a monologue, so that doesn't count. Anyway, it means that when it comes to writing description, I often flounder. How much longer do I need to go on writing all this boring stuff where nothing is happening, nobody is acting, I will often ask myself half a paragraph in.

(Strangely, I have more tolerance reading description, though I do tend to skim.)

Anyway, a trick I have been using lately to get through description is to try to make it more active. Whenever you can, use the description to help move along the story, or introduce it as other things are happening in the story. For instance, instead of:

"She wore a sleek, low-cut green dress. Her shoes were the latest fashion, matching her artificially blue eyes. Over her shoulder, she carried a small handbag bearing a Gucci label."

Why not:

"The clack of heels turned my head. My eyes were drawn immediately to the low-cut neckline in the sheer green dress behind me, before a cleared throat drew my attention to a pair of annoyed eyes, tinted-lens blue. Having conveyed her annoyance, she reached into the small handbag at her side, its designer label too fashionable for me to know, and pulled out a compact. While I stared, she opened it and began a completely unnecessary examination of her face..."

You get all the description from the first example (mostly), but instead of the character standing still while you take a snapshot, you already have a sense of her character and the interaction with the main character. This is the kind of description I try to write when I can. Clearly, you can't do this all the time; there are moments when you just need a paragraph to describe the room your character's just stepped into, or the completely bizarre alien creature he's just met, but whenever you can, try to include reactions and interactions, not just appearances.

At the very least, I will enjoy reading your stuff more. :)

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