Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Descriptions Bring The Story Alive

Novel & Short Story Writer's Market

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Descriptions provide color, shape, texture and tone. They help make the scenes real. Expressive writing is a powerful tool for adding atmosphere and excitement. It sucks the reader into the story, playing with his emotions. A good writer should have the ability to capture the essence, the spirit of what he is describing as well as just its physical appearance.

Descriptions are vital part of prose. Without knowing how the characters and settings look, we cannot visualize them. The tales become populated with vague, fuzzy people living in an indistinct land. It is difficult to see them clearly. Descriptions of people, era and locations paint in the fine detail help bring the story alive.

The secret of creating powerful and truthful descriptions is observation. A writer should train himself to look for the unusual. One careful observation can alter our perception of a character or a place. The longer the piece, the more descriptive passages you can have and the more involved they can be. This is particularly true of literary magazines tales or radio stories which depend very much on atmosphere and the slow build-up of tension.

In stories between 1,500 and 2,000 words the narrative should be free of unnecessary images. It needs sharpness, movement and pace. Only use a long description if you have a lot of information to put over. Aim for striking images with the minimum amount of words. Three-word descriptions are particularly powerful. Do not get too lyrical and gush with purple prose. Do not let descriptions bog down a story or complete for attention with the plot.

Use simple, easily understood words and direct, clear-cut images. Choose adjective and adverbs with care. Use them sparingly. Be subtle – make the description an unremarkable part of the fabric of the story. Do not tell events – show them happening. Use your descriptive powers to take your readers inside the hero’s head. Help them share their feelings. Do not give background information in huge dollops. This slows the story. Drip information like a leaky tap.

Describe places, people and events as they are seen through the main character’s eyes. Use all five senses. Make the readers feel the sensations the hero is experiencing. To inject excitement give your work a hurtling, breathless feel. Ensure that your sentences get shorter as the story builds to a dramatic climax. Do not fall into the trap of being too economical when describing a person. Give the readers all the information that is crucial.

Ensure that character backgrounds are as different as you can make them. The more stark the contrast between them the better. Many writers find it helps to base their characters on real people – but change a few details to stay out of trouble.

It is okay to use photographs of people or places as an aid to your imagination. Describe what you see. Give the readers a chance to get to know each character a little before introducing the next. Never bring in more than two at a time. Only include people who are going to be vital to the plot – those who have something to say for themselves.

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