Sunday, 11 March 2018
How DO you write? – Part 1
Every writer has a unique style of writing. The way a writer constructs a story is an individual thing, but how do you write?
Do you focus more on the dialogue and less of the description? Do you put more into the characters than you do the story? Do you fill your pages will beautiful description and not much else? These are all examples of what writers do, without ever maintaining a balance.
How you write is important. It’s the difference between the reader becoming fully immersed in the story and enjoying every page, to throwing it aside because it’s so terrible. It comes back to that word ‘balance’ again. The best stories always have a good balance of dialogue, narrative and description.
But what makes some writing so amazing? The way a writer constructs his or her descriptions is what makes stories stand out. How you write is all about choosing the correct words to convey the story, in the right way that brings the scene to life and makes it easier for the reader to visualise and understand.
Description shouldn’t ‘tell’ the readers, it should ‘show’ them. It should be visual, but should also be rhythmic and have a sense of alliteration. It should appeal to the reader’s senses, so that on an emotional level, certain words will invoke certain associations, memories or emotions. The idea is to seduce and lure the reader into your fictional world with your carefully chosen words, so much so they almost get wrapped up in it.
Sensory description can be powerful, emotional and visual. New writers wrongly assume that description isn’t an essential requirement for their masterpiece, but that’s like trying to make tomato soup without the tomatoes. Perhaps some writers find it hard to do, while others just don’t bother. There are some writers that insist that their books are perfectly fine without all that descriptive stuff. But the quality of description is what makes writing work, and this might be why so many self-published novels are so unreadable, awful and not worthy of being written in the first place. Sometimes they force the description and it’s dull and flat or they forget the description altogether. If there is little effective description, then you’re not telling your story.
Of course, writers can be the complete opposite and write too much description. Readers don’t want to see large chunks of description; it will put them off and it will kill the pace. This practice is seen in a lot of books over the last 100 years, where it was common for the author to describe a scene for pages and pages. It’s better to break down descriptions into more sizable sections so that it keeps things moving and keeps the reader interested.
How do you write? should be a question every author should ask themselves. The reader needs to know where and when the story takes place, whose story it is, what the characters look like, what is around them and what they’re doing at any given moment. Without this information, the reader won’t have a clue what’s going on, nor want to be a part of it.
Description is only hard for authors because they don’t know how to write – they don’t know how to construct descriptive passages that are stimulating, visual or poetic, but that’s what writing is about – describing things, in your own stylistic way. When you describe something, it’s description. This is why so many rely so heavily on ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’.
There is also the notion that some writers are too flowery with their descriptions – known as Purple Prose, but this is often down to an individual’s perception. What one person finds over the top or ornate, another will find beauty. The truth is that description is only bad when it’s written badly.
Description is such an integral part of a story and should never be ignored. If you are a writer, then carefully choosing the right words in the right order that brings the scene to life should be easy. This should be second nature.
In part 2 we’ll look at how to approach description, how to make it effective by showing rather than telling, how to make it visual and not over the top, and the kinds of things to avoid to get the best from your descriptions.
Next week: How DO you write? – Part 2