Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Writing Descriptively (Part 5 of 7)

When writing descriptively, don't hesitate to use figurative language—if it fits. The first two below are my own.
Having planted seed in my curiosity patch, Mark will watch to see if it sprouts in my actions.

Darkness dwells within the best of us; in the worst of us, darkness not only dwells but reigns.

Love was a sacred garment, woven of a fabric so thin that it could not be seen, yet so strong that even mighty death could not tear it, a garment that could not be frayed by use, that brought warmth into what would otherwise be an intolerably cold world—but at times love could also be as heavy as a chain mail.—Dean Koontz, False Memories, p.71. 
Metaphors, if well written, enliven our writing. But don't use them unless they flow from you. Here are two negative examples.

* His writing was like brilliant comets that streaked across the sky, drenching readers with a blizzard of insight.

* In the meeting, thorny problems—which we tried to sweep under the rug—bobbed up several times. 

The above examples are bad because they used mixed metaphors (i.e., comparisons that aren't consistent). In the second, thorny problems starts the sentence and we get it. But do thorns bob, and do we sweep thorns under the rug?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Writing Descriptively (Part 4 of 7)

What makes description effective?

You first know the correct names and terms that catch the emotion or the image. Good description goes beyond accuracy and precision to include the musical qualities of language. The sounds of your words and the cadences of your sentences reinforce the content of your description.

Think of good description as the use of the senses. Your readers need to see things. Here's descriptive writing that makes me feel I'm right in the middle of the dust bowl in 1934 Oklahoma:

Dust coated the dials on the radio, the plates on the table, and the dishes in the cupboards. Evelyn rinsed the lenses of his spectacles, and a few minutes later, she had to do it again.

Are you there? Notice the use of spectacles—which was the common word in those days. That single detail lends authenticity to those two sentences and pulls us into that kitchen.

Good description employs specific, concrete detail for readers to visualize or experience the scene through their senses.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Writing Descriptively (Part 3 of 7)

Descriptive writing isn't a long list of adjectives. Some writers strain over using what they call strong verbs. Don't do that.

Descriptive writing flows from your understanding of what you want to say, and you use your own vocabulary and styles (we call that your voice). It's not what someone called "that flowery stuff that embellishes stories."

For example, why would you write "her visage" or "his countenance" when you'd normally use the word face?

Descriptive writing tries to create an image—a picture—by selecting exactly the right words that clarify. You provide visual details that include sounds and smells, and texture.

Here's my favorite explanation, written by Richard Price: You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.

You need to present the most significant details—those that reveal the essence of the person, object, action, or situation.

To write descriptively, I don't need to search for strong verbs;
I need to embrace my own natural voice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Writing Descriptively (Part 2 of 7)

When you write descriptively, readers nod because they get it. You pay attention to the details by using as many of your five senses as you can.

Another way to say it is that you write in such a way that readers feel they're involved in the story or the illustration.

I caught this April 30, 2001, from a lead article in USA Today. This is nonfiction called, "A puff of smoke, and then chaos at 4,000 feet" by Jack Kelley.
Missionary worker Jim Bowers peered uneasily out the front passenger window of a Cessna 185 floatplane. To his right: a Peruvian air force fighter jet.

It had been tailing the Cessna for about 15 minutes.

Suddenly, there was a puff of smoke from the fighter. Bullets pierced the missionary plane in machine-gun fashion. The jet flew under the Cessna, reappeared on its left and fired again.
Notice "peered uneasily," "puff of smoke," "bullets pierced." That's descriptive writing and puts us inside that Cessna.

Because I want readers to feel they are part of the story, 
I write descriptively.