What's up, y'all?
For our first "lesson" discussion this month, I figured 'Description/Worldbuilding' would be a good topic to delve into. I considered things like grammar or 'How to Plan Your Fic,' but honestly, since virtually everyone here is already in the middle of writing something, I didn't think it made sense to start that far back.
So, in this month's lesson, we will be discussing the importance of good description and ways to improve upon this aspect in our writing.
So, I guess without further ado, let's get into our first lesson!
The Writer's Workshop Writing Academy
Lesson One: Description and World Building
Description. What is it?
Well, @Gastly's Mama
; @Misheard Whisper
; and all the rest of you can weigh in on that as well, but to me, 'Description' is how we as writers are able to paint the picture of what is happening in our stories for the readers.
If our word processors are our canvases, then description is our paint!
Description, and whether we are effective with it or not, is essential in whether or not our story will be bland or rich... boring or exciting... concise or cumbersome!
To start off, here is a great article I found a long time ago on my favorite writing site: Writing-World.com The Art of Description: Eight Tips to Help You Bring Your Settings to Life
I really encourage you guys to read the article, especially if you feel like description is sometimes challenging to write.
What did you think of it?
IMO, the author of the article, Anne Marble, says it perfectly: Without description, our characters would just be wandering down vague hallways, and our readers don't get a sense of time or place in our stories. Our stories are boring without it!
But at the same time, TOO much description is often just as damaging. Want to see an example of WAY TOO MUCH description? Here: Check out the Prologue of this terrible fic
As you can see in the example, there is just mounds and mounds of text describing what is going on with the setting. Sure, it does paint a picture for the reader of what is going on, but the reader is left saying, "WE FREAKING GET IT! IT'S A DARK FOREST DURING A STORM! HOW MANY WAYS ARE YOU GOING TO SAY IT!?"
As Ms. Marble says in her article, you should avoid these HUGE clumps of descriptive text in your stories because, frankly, it will bore the reader.
Another great tip Marble gives is this: "Make Description an Active Part of the Story."
Now what does that mean? It means that instead of simply stating your description as a list of things, you need to blend the description along with the action.
For example (based on Marble's example in her article):
- Instead of saying, "The ale was cold. She wore a leather top."
- You could instead say, "Zara grabbed her mug and gulped it down, shivering when a few drops of the frigid ale trickled down her chin and down below her leather top."
You see how are you not only giving a vivid description of what is happening, but you are tying into the story. You are avoiding the common mistake of simply listing things happening like a grocery list.
I don't want to make this first post too bogged down, as this is supposed to be a discussion, but here is one more helpful article (in my opinion): Kill the Adverbs!
It's from the same website, and I just think it's great advice. As Mark Twain said, readers don't want to watch your characters 'walking slowly' or hear them 'speaking softly.' Make your characters 'jog,' 'march,' 'saunter,' or 'sprint.' Make them 'mumble,' 'mutter,' or 'whisper.'
Anyways, that's enough out of me for now!
What do you guys think?
Here are some possible discussion topics to get us started:
1. Do you think the above articles were helpful? What did you agree with? What did you disagree with?
2. How do you draw the line between too much description and not enough description in your writing?
3. What about world building? How much time and energy do you dedicate to introducing your readers to the details of your world? How detailed do you get in describing it?
And obviously, feel free to drift away from these topics. As long as the discussion stays on the topic, go for it!!
Ask questions, make comments, give us examples from your own work, ask advice on how to make a particular passage better! Anything.