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Mon Sep 03, 2007 3:07 pm
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Caligula's Launderette says...

Cal’s Soapbox: Histrionics

Okay, so, here’s something you probably didn’t know about Cal.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away there was this girl who wrote a story about a cat. This cat was named Yomiko. It was white and had a pink nose. The girl loved Yomiko, and she went every-which-where with her. She even went to Belgium when the girl was six. One day the girl’s mother came up to her, handed her a journal and said, “Why don’t you write a story about Yomiko?” So she did what her mother said, she wrote the story. The title was Travels With Yominko and there was pictures drawn in color and everything. On the bottom of each page under the aborted shapes of cats and stick figures and clouds the story had been written. After Travels With Yominko, the girl went on to write other stories about other travels both real and imaginary.

So yeah, that girl was me, and this is Yominko.


I have had her ever since I can remember. She’s a sweetheart.

So, my first story was about a cat, and it had no dialogue, it was all description. For the longest time I was hell-bent on proving I could write a story with without dialogue, or if the muse struck short burst of craptastic dialogue. And, guess what, I didn’t know any better. I thought talking only existed in reality, I suppose.

But I learned, and over the years since I learn that dialogue and other lovely writerly things beside description, *coughcoughPLOTcoughcough* are a necessity I had attempted to hone my craft. But, at the heart of me I am still a descriptive writer. I love it. I love trying to find new and different combinations of words to describe things. I adore utilizing colors to express myself. I will always feel like I write description better than I do anything else. Perhaps that is why poetry flocked to me like duck to water.

1. So first things first: What is description writing and what are its uses?

One type of description is twined between dialogue to help in convey an emotion or an action. The other is description that is independent of the dialogue and helps in making the setting more vivid, sort of like line art for a drawing, the building blocks of the world around you.

Tips on descriptive writing.

    Get a thesaurus or use

    As Rhys Alexander said “[d]etail makes the difference between boring and terrific writing. It’s the difference between a pencil sketch and a lush oil painting. As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.”

    Sit at your computer or with your notebook or whatever and pick something to describe. Write down all the things that you can think of to describe it, using all the five senses. After you’ve done that form it into a paragraph.

    Then try describing the same object from different points of view, such as: a child, a blind person, some one from the future, a dog, a famous person in history, etc…

    The more you practice the better you will get at it.

    Appeal to both emotions and senses, and don’t forget there are five senses not just one or two. I find that I often forget that there are more than just sight and touch. Though characterization wise emphasizing the use of one or two senses can lead to great insights into character.

    Don’t weigh down everything will extensive detail. Think of your writing as a musical score, by emphasizing certain parts by using more description you are creating more, louder background music. Telling your reader, “Hey! This is important.”

    The thing you don’t want to do is weight down your writing with so much description that the reader goes “Bloody hell” and skips the paragraph all together because it hurts their eyes.

2. What’s the difference between description and info dump?

Info dumping to quote Snoink – “Some writers believe that the only way they can get their readers hooked into their story is by telling the readers upfront what every single little aspect of their story is”.

Info dumping can be grating and most likely will help your reader lose interest pretty fast. We don’t want to know everything, truly, and we don’t want to know everything at once either. By trimming your description and adding throughout, you make your character more enjoyable and mysterious. Readers like to look forward to things like that.

3. Expand your vocabulary!

Tips on expanding your vocabulary.

    Remember what I said about thesauruses, get one. It is a great tool.

    Also make sure that when you are using a word you are using it correctly, that will help with confusion.

    Read as many things as you can, the more you read, the more new words you find.

4. First draftsies don’t count.

A first draftsies is basically the first draft, and it’s okay if you think it needs work, because it does. And being that it is technically the first of that scene you’ve put together it doesn’t count. You can always revise, make it better, make it clearer, add things, detract things.

5. Emotional Weight & The Pause, Your Friend.

Robert J. Sawyer wrote somewhere: “[r]emember, a scene in any book has to carry all the emotional freight on its own; it's not supposed to be a mere transcript of something people have already seen”.

This is true. In a creative writing class I took last semester we drew plot graphs when we critiqued each other’s work. A plot graph is basically a graph marking tension in the story, poem, play etc… The up and down line is height, and the left to right line is time, as the tension rises or lower you mark on the graph, then at the end you draw a line connect the dots. You shouldn’t have a spike on the graph just come out of nowhere, or a sharp plummet either, unless you are writing a methodic form of comedy or satire. The tension should come from someplace, there should be a building of it from the initial force of impact that starts the plot moving.

For the pause, it doesn’t have to be big thing, silence often describes itself very well.

Here's an scene out of Terence Green's Children of the Rainbow:
Terence Green wrote:It was almost midnight when McTaggart made the decision.

"I think," he said, "that we should go closer."

The others stared at him.

"Maybe fifteen miles away."

Nobody said a word.

"Force their hand."

Now if you tried it without the pausing (space breaks) it would be quite awful, no tension what-so-evah.

“I think that we should go closer. Maybe fifteen miles away. Force their hand."

Wow, what a difference.

6. The Three Fold Path of Description

It’s like the Eight-Fold Path in Buddhism, only there is only three.

    The truth is in the details. The details, my dear Watson, can make or break ya. We as writers utilize our observation skills and then our memorization to recall certain things we wish to describe.

    But often times we are describe something that is not fact or memory, for instance some fantasy thing from our imagination. The details should be as specific as possible. The best thing is to relate that to something concrete and draw from that.

    Intention or Dominant Impression. This is the feeling we wish to covey, you can describe something as bad or good depending, such as the beach.
    First description, the beach is golden, the waves are a brilliant blue, and children are laughing, playing in the surf.

    Second description, the beach is littered with cigarette butts and broken beer bottles. It is chilly and you have to wrap your coat tighter to keep warm. There is kelp, dark and twisted decaying on the sand.

Editing. Editing is a huge part of any writer’s thing, and shall remain so.

7. Mary Sueing It

Mary Sues are evil, try to stay away from list descriptioning of characters, such as “Mary Sue had blonde hair, sky blue eyes, and freckles on her nose”, etc.

Try to find way to describe your characters that are unique and that connect with something else or somebody else in the story, comparison or contrast if you will.

That is all for me, today. Hope this helps or you found it interesting.

Fraser: Stop stealing the blanket.
[Diefenbaker whines]
Fraser: You're an Arctic Wolf, for God's sake.
(Due South)

Hatter: Do I need a reason to help a pretty girl in a very wet dress? (Alice)

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Mon Sep 03, 2007 3:30 pm
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Firestarter says...

Much goodness as always, my dear Cal.
Nate wrote:And if YWS ever does become a company, Jack will be the President of European Operations. In fact, I'm just going to call him that anyways.

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