Friday, July 17, 2009

Be focused

Vagueness is often our first impulse when we're getting things down.But it's specificity that gives our descriptions power.In your first draft, use as many clichés as you need to, just get the story down. In your revision, however, treat every single cliché as an opportunity for brilliance. Ask yourself how you can describe this in an entirely new way.

Part of being specific in description is also being original, avoiding the usual path. But there may be times when you use a mix of vague and specific details to highlight certain qualities in your characters.To work on this: Ask yourself the most naïve questions possible to access the sensory cues that conjure the situation for a reader (and that in life we absorb subconsciously): What sounds evoke the scene for you? What smells? What images? What physical responses would you have to this situation? And if questions don't work for you, find some other way to visualize the scene. If you can't picture it, how will you enable your reader to do so?

In fiction, description should not only paint a picture for the reader, but also contribute to the plot and reveal something about character. Choose your details carefully. There's a fine line between lush description and the kind that chokes the reader.If you fear you're in danger of crossing that line, consider which elements of your description serve the primary elements of your plot and which are gratuitous.