Quick Bit: Writing Active Description

Your writing needs description to make the people and places you're writing about come alive in the mind of the reader.

Duh.

But opinions on how much description vary.  Some like a lot, some like a little.  I fall somewhere in between.  I like a lot of description–and I will admit to finding myself skimming through it upon occasion as well.

One way to make certain your description is palatable to the reader is to make it active.  I was reminded of this the other night when reading Stargazey Point by Shelley Noble.  Here's the sentence of active description that caught my eye:

She chattered on while Abbie followed a footstep behind her and tried to decipher the pattern of the faded oriental runner.

It is not the best sentence ever written in the history of the world, but it does illustrate my point nicely. And that point would be this:

The way to make your description active is to have your character interact with it.

As my grandchildren would say: Done! (This must be accompanied with throwing both hands in the air.)

So, have your viewpoint character describe the windows in the old house as she tries to open one.  Or your skateboarding protaganist wax poetic about a street fair as he zig-zags around people and booths.  

Simple and effective.  

And that is all I have to say on the subject.

Do you like a lot of description or a little?

 

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9 Comments on "Quick Bit: Writing Active Description"

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Don Williams
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Don Williams
07/08/2014 13:19

Boy, not only is this a good post, but it really brings back the memories of when I was studying writing. I can just year dear teacher now. It was painful back then, but now those same memories are fond ones — not to mention — much needed at that!

Charlotte Dixon
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07/08/2014 13:47

I’m glad your memories have now become fond ones, Don!

J.D.
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J.D.
07/08/2014 20:18

I am so guilty of this sin. I should slap a sticky note with a big A on the edge of my monitor. Charlotte, perhaps you can promise all of us who repent a sweater with an A on the chest. Just don’t make it scarlet. A little confession goes a long way but let’s not get carried away.

D young
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D young
07/09/2014 05:30

The interactive description- I agree is most effective. When it’s being described by the main character from the outside looking in, to me is either boring or confusing. Also- consistency thru the work is important. I will agree though- too much description can be annoying and “junky”. Is it pertinent to seething the scene or building the story? If not- leave it out.

Charlotte Dixon
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07/09/2014 06:01

I could give you a sweater with a P for passive on it right now! If you promise to be a good J.D., I’ll wait and gift you with the A sweater, just tell me your favorite color.

Charlotte Dixon
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07/09/2014 06:02

It’s funny, in published work I most often see too much description and in manuscript work it is usually the opposite–not enough. That just occurred to me as I read your comment, D. I think it is important to strike a balance.

Zan Marie
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07/09/2014 06:22

Great post! Stargazey Point is a a great read, too. Thanks for such a spot on explanation.

Charlotte Dixon
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07/09/2014 06:31

I’m becoming a fan of Shelley Noble–I loved Beach Colors! Thanks for dropping by.

J.D.
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J.D.
07/09/2014 07:54

It is sure as hell not red.

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