Monday, February 15, 2016

Description Woes

As some of you've heard before, I don't include a lot of description in my stories.

I'm not an especially visual person. I'm not able to see a movie in my brain of the action in my story. I'm not able to visualize faces of the characters.

I can see snippets of the setting, although sometimes its more of a map that a 3D visual. I get some scattered images of the places as well. Not many, though.

This is probably connected to the fact, that in real life, I have an incredibly difficult time recognizing people if I haven't seen them in a while. I always tell my students that they'll have to approach me in the future with their names because after a year or two, I won't have a chance of recognizing them, unless I recognize the voice. I will remember them, just not recognize them.

I know that when I say the word cat to a room full of people, some will see a cat in their head, others will hear the meow, some will see the word spelled out in front of them, a few will smell the kitty litter or the cat, another couple will have their hearts warm up because of the love they feel for their pet (or shrivel in fear if they've been attacked), and still more will feel the fur against their arm.

Our brains are fascinating and unique.

So, while I wish I could do the whole visual thing, I've learned to live with it.

It's probably why I skim over descriptive passages in writing (both mine and that of others). I can imagine that once I publish, some of the negative reviews will focus on that. Readers who crave description will give my stories a pass.

But, I can't bring myself to care what style and/or colour of shirt my heroine is wearing or what the room looks like. If it's not somehow relevant to the plot, I don't notice it.

For me, the story is about the emotion. That, I can describe pretty well.

What about you? Are you a visual person? Do you include a lot of description in your writing?

41 comments:

  1. B..bbb...but me loves the writers who write like they have a camera in their hands :(

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    1. I wish I could! I'll try extra hard for you Dez! :)

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  2. I'm *exactly* like you in that respect. I don't enjoy description as a reader and I don't enjoy it as a writer. Now I force myself to write it (some of my readers for one series do seem to like it) and all in one pass through the manuscript.

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    1. That sounds like a great idea - an entire revision round where I focus on description - great idea!

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  3. I am a visual person, learner. I don't know that description comes easy for me either. I also read other writers description to inspire me and when I find one I like, I reread.

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    1. I've tried, but my brain glazes over at times! Although I do love my Tolkien! :)

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  4. I'm so like you. I struggle with writing description and skim it when there are long passages of it. The good thing about writing for kids is you don't need as much in your stories.

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    1. So true! Maybe that's even more proof I never really grew up! :)

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  5. Hmmm.

    I try not to dwell too much on description unless it's somehow important to the character or scene or story in some way, particularly as it relates to mood. I do notice that I almost never describe my main character(s) in any great detail, but I usually find some description of minor characters. I don't know why.

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    1. That's interesting! I do have some snippets that are effective (according to crit buddies) but they're few and far between! :)

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  6. My first drafts usually lack a lot of description. When I go back to revise, if I find I'M lost, then I know I need to add something. Haha! But most of the time it's because I don't know what anything looks like (yep, I'm a pantser). That doesn't happen until I've finished the story. By then I know what things to concentrate on, what things need more describing. And of course, a good editor will point out things I missed. :)

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    1. I'm a pantser too! Those editors are worth their weight in chocolate!! :)

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  7. I might not enjoy writing a lot of description, but I am a very visual person and that helps with my writing. Helps with my photography, too. It's something I can layer in later. You might not see the movie, but it's okay. (And that one comment is just rude.)

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    1. I'm learning to layer - but sometimes it comes across as awkward! Thank good for crit buddies :)

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  8. Jemi, I could have written this post myself. Exactly the same issue. I skim descriptions when reading as well and don't enjoy trying to write them. Sigh.

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    1. I'm so glad there are all kinds of writers and readers - there have to be some out there for us :)

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  9. This is very interesting because I'm about 180 degrees in the other direction. All I have to do is set my fingers on the right keys (critical first step), close my eyes, and type. Everything's there. The characters, how they look, sound, move and where they are. Brains are, indeed, amazing and complicated.

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    1. They are! I wish I could see it all - but I can FEEL it all, which definitely helps me out. My stories always start with that spark of emotion and off I go :)

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  10. I don't do a lot of description in my writing but when I'm reading I'm struck with major envy when writer can do it and draw me in. I reread those parts to help me do it better.

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    1. Such a good idea! I've been rereading a few books for other reasons - going to have to be on the lookout for that too!

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  11. I like somewhat brief, unique, possibly humorous description--and if it's important to the story. I often skim a paragraph if it's nothing but description...unless the prose is unique or it's in the character's voice, which is interesting. I usually have to go back and layer it in, but I'm getting better.

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    1. I've got a few moments of good stuff, but it continues to be tough :)

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  12. Wow - I have exactly the same problem as you. I don't like writing physical descriptions, I often skip over them when I'm reading, and I too have a touch of face blindness (sometimes I struggle to recognize people out of context, or when I haven't seen them for a while). I guess we all have our strengths and weaknesses - I could write all day about character and be happy!

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    1. Me too! Once I didn't recognize my daughter in the grocery story - she had to step right up into my face and laugh at me!! Crazy :)

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  13. Descriptions would be a difficult aspect for me too. I guess it goes back to journalist being pressed to only include facts.

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    1. Just the facts, ma'am! :P
      I do spend more time with nonfiction in my job! :)

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  14. I love description, but I prefer there to be just enough to let my own mind fill in the details. That's part of the fun of reading for me.

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    1. I agree! I need to have those characters belong to me whether I'm reading or writing! :)

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  15. I'm very visual, but even I struggle with getting the right image on the page. I actually pull up google images or pinterest to find settings or other aspects and write from the image. For me, it's a challenge to get the other senses involved (other than sound), but I do it in the editing.

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    1. Using all of the senses is so important and not always easy. Thanks for the Google Images tip! :)

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    2. Glad to pass it on! Of course, safety filters are an issue on there. (Pinterest is a better search source if you ask me.)

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  16. I like to think I add the right amount of description. I used to write with too much of it. I've read authors who don't use it too much and their writing is very too the point. It can work if all the other elements are strong.

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    1. I think you do! I'm working on adding it more naturally! :)

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  17. What an interesting post! I have a good friend who is a teacher and he has trouble with visual recognition too and tells his students the same thing you do!

    I am a visual person. I like some description in a story, and work on finding the balance in my own writing. I do not like when there is way too much description in writing. Emotions are very important!
    ~Jess

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    1. That's awesome! Glad I'm not alone :)
      Finding that balance is SO important!

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  18. I'm super visual! In my prewriting stage I list all the locations I expect my characters to be in, then I list items they would see, hear, smell, touch in those locations. I don't use all the details in the story, but it allows me to put myself in the "movie" in my head that I'm writing. I rely on The Emotion Thesaurus a lot when I'm on my second revision on the story, because emotions are one of my weakness...I'm English....stiff upper lip and all that. Great post!!!!!

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    1. I love that Emotion Thesaurus too!
      My folks are Scottish so I know all about that stiff upper lip :)

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  19. Cutting down description is part of my job Jemi!

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  20. Interesting post! I am very visual. That said, my first draft will always have some descriptions that have to be removed; maybe they're really for me, to help me see my story, and they slow the pacing in the first draft. I'll also have places that need way more. Thank goodness we can work in drafts! :)

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    1. No kidding! Those first drafts can be such fun, but they always need a ton of work! :)

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