The Description Challenge
I was in a conversation recently with a group of writers and authors. One person stated he had a difficult time writing description. How much is too much? And, how does he make it fit in to the story.
My off-the-wall brain came up with an instant exercise. If you are having trouble writing description, especially expanding description to go with the overall story you may want to try this exercise.
The Fight Scene Description Model
Write a fight scene, breaking it down action, by action. Time slows down and small details drive the sentences.
Now use the same detailed technique for description.
- What elements stand out?
- What one thing stands out from everything around? In a landscape it may be a mountain or bluff. In a kitchen it may be the sparkling coffee carafe or the old, stained electric percolator. On a sailing ship, it may be the mainmast towering over the deck and reaching for the sky.
- After you identify the one thing. Start detailing everything else in the setting with the same attention to specifics.
You can use the image of a Belgian farm here to start your exercise.
Here's how Joseph Conrad incorporates the sea, a steamer, and a deck chair in the opening of The End of the Tether.
For a long time after the course of the steamer Sofala had been altered for the land, the low swampy coast had retained its appearance of a mere smudge of darkness beyond a belt of glitter. The sunrays seemed to fall violently upon the calm sea—seemed to shatter themselves upon an adamantine surface into sparkling dust, into a dazzling vapor of light that blinded the eye and wearied the brain with its unsteady brightness.
Captain Whalley did not look at it. When his Serang, approaching the roomy cane arm-chair which he filled capably, had informed him in a low voice that the course was to be altered, he had risen at once and had remained on his feet, face forward, while the head of his ship swung through a quarter of a circle.
I'd love to here about your experience with this exercise.