Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Advanced Description: Take Your Prose to the Next Level

In the past year, I've learned that description is a lot more complicated than you think. It's not just using the five senses. It's about invoking emotion with your description as well. 

1.) Mapping Out The Senses - I learned this technique at the Icelandic Writers Retreat last year in my favorite class of the retreat. It's really handy for those (like me) who have trouble making sure they cover all of the senses. 

For a scene where you need to describe an area try mapping out the senses like so: Sight, sight sound, sound, taste, smell, burst of senses.

This is the piece I wrote in the class to utilize this map: The raven, Huginn, flew over the farmland knotted with hillocks. Even in April, the snow still lingered in icy patches on the ground, but in large quantities on the mountains. The strong whistling wind lifted him higher into the air and he let out a caw of delight, still tasting some of the herring he had for breakfast. Even so far out into the country, the brine of the sea lingered in the cold air.

Nearby the umpteenth tour bus Huginn has seen in his long life drove by on the coal-black road, carrying in its belly humans from all across the globe who’ve come to see the land magic still calls home. The guide had mentioned his name, so he had to make an appearance. He landed on a pumice rock and ruffled his soft feathers, the cool stone with holes like Maribo cheese under his scaly claws. Odin would be pleased to hear that their stories are still shared with others so in this ever-changing world they will never be forgotten.

You don't necessarily have to use my same map. Try sound, sight, touch, touch, sight, sight or whatever combination. It really helps when you're having trouble getting into the description of a scene. Give it a shot for fun!

2.) How Does the Description Make Your Character Feels - I just recently finished Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young and she does a great job of doing this. Instead of just describing a forest, the main character Eelyn also talks about how the forest makes her miss the fjords of home. Instead of just describing the cold collar around her neck, Eelyn talks about how it makes her ashamed. How does your character's surroundings make them feel?

3.) Make the Description Personal - No character is going to describe something the same way. While one person may describe an object as the size of an orange, another could describe it the size of a baseball. How does your character describe things in a way unique to her or his world? 

She sped into the woods, navigating her steps around any branch or stone to keep as silent as a deer.
My character Mor lives near a forest so she compares things to the animals she grew up around. 

Conclusion: There are always new and more advanced techniques to learn about writing and they can help bump up your style to the next level!

Is description easy or difficult for you? Do you have any description tips? What authors do you believe to write the best description?

You may also like: 

100+ Blocking Ideas for Your Characters
Description: It's Gotta Be Just Right
Attack on Titan and Mystery: How to Keep Your Readers Turning Pages (Or Clicking on the Next Episode)
Inciting Incidents 101
Harry Potter and Pacing: Why I Believe the Movies Did a Better Job

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