Sunday, June 25, 2017

Readers don't give a damn about description. They want the story to start.

When you do use description, weave it into the story, into the action, into the dialogue. Readers don't give a damn about description. They want the story to start, and they are impatient until it does. If you really must, drag in all your background and description later, after your readers are hooked by the story.

Everything you choose to show readers should be important or related to the plot and the characters. It is a good idea to color your descriptions with emotion. If readers find out about a sunset, a house, a cat, through how a character feels about its qualities, they'll feel it's an ongoing part of the story.

Closely related to getting description across in a novel is getting information across. We call this exposition. See how dialogue used to get across information is done in this section of Paramour by Gerald Petievich.

(Jack tells Marilyn that he searched her apartment a few days earlier):
"I just hope my apartment was decent when you conducted the search," Marilyn said.
"You know a lot about me," she said, "but I know absolutely nothing about you."
"I've been on the White House Detail since..."
"Are you married, Jack?"
He shook his head.
"Why not?" she said.
"Never got around to it, I guess."
"Or seldom wanted to get around to it?"

You see. We were told some of his background through his words, not someone else talking about him.

Here's another example of an effective use of dialogue to present information to readers, from Degree of Guilt by Richard North Patterson.

(Attorney Terri is interviewing an older actress who once knew famous actress Laura Chase before Laura killed herself.)
"How did you meet Laura Chase?" Terri asked.
"As you may or may not know, my father ran Paramount Studios then, so they stuck me in the family business.”
“I didn’t know.”
"Eventually, I developed a perverse desire to be more important than he was. But my first job was a supporting role as Laura Chase's kid sister, for which my major qualification was to be more or less flatchested."
"I've hadn't seen that one, I guess."
"It never got made.” Caldwell's voice grew softer. "Laura killed herself just before our biggest scene."

Let’s use all the senses in our novel.
Descriptive writing is typically describing how something looks. Painting a picture for your readers, gives them something to visualize. However, to limit yourself to how things look is one dimensional.

You also can describe how things sound, taste, smell and how they feel to the touch. Obviously, you don't need to evoke every single sense. Be aware there are other senses beyond the obvious one and describing things in a different way can sometimes be even more powerful. What is important in writing is that readers are reached on different levels. Therefore, it is important to use those words to help readers see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews