How I Write Description

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Challenged by a fellow blogger, I am here today to tell you how I write description, complete with lots of examples. You ready to lunge into the red sea that is my writing? Here we go...

 And there in a basket at my feet lay a baby, so small and beautiful with her long golden curls, that I couldn’t resist gazing at her for several long moments. 

I tend to use short clips of description, and weave them into an otherwise ordinary sentance. It's comes off a bit strange at times, but it's the way I've been writing for so long that it would be bazare to me not to write that way.

I was as foolish as a child, yet as weighed with cares and troubles as an army veteran. 
Another aspect of my descriptions are the similes. I *love* similes. To me, it's a good way to make something non-tangible, tangible. One can use similes to turn an emotion into a bolting horse, tension into something as real as electricity or lightning.

And now look at you, healthy once more. Though, you could gain a little weight to cover those bones of yours...But, I can’t complain.
When I stared at her for a moment after this speech, a bit dumbfounded, her blush was visible even through her negro skin.  
One of the most artistic ways to describe a character is through another character. And let me tell you, I'm no artist as this one. Usually, it ends up being simple little things, such as "I didn't notice much about her, but for her height, so prominant it was." or "there were a thousand little brown dots sprinkled across his face that seemed to taunt me as I looked into his steady eyes." (note: these are not components in Winter Wings - they are simply little snippets that I wrote for the purpose of this post)
 Favian’s voice is full of love and sympathy, as he lifts a lock my ever-escaping wisps of hair in his rough fingers. I notice with regret that the sunlight does not glint off of it like it does on other blonde-haired young women. My hair is simple, flat, blonde.  
Okay, so it is vaguely possible to have a character describe themself. But it's awkward. Very awkward. Especially with characters that are beautiful, yet not vain in the slightest. It just doesn't fit.

Luckily, Ara isn't stunningly beautiful, and she doesn't pay any attention to her looks until later in the book. Up until Part 3, (no, I'm not writing this in order) there is no more than description than the fact that she is very skinny, scrawny even, has a defined jaw, and eyes that grab hold of you like a hawks claws (again with the similes). I'm pretty sure I haven't even mentioned that her hair is blonde. (Okay, that aspect needs to change...) Back to the self-descriptions.

I've found that the best way to have a character describe themself (and remember, only if necessary) is to talk about their poor qualities. Because think about it: when you look in the mirror, is the first thing you notice how nice your face looks this morning, or how bad your hands look from all the garden work yesterday? I'm pretty sure it's not the first. So unless my character is incredibly self-assured, I like to stick with the "my face will never be particularly pretty, but at least the washbasin has proven itself worthy," type of sentance.

And that's my description for you. :)

8 comments

  1. I think I like the bit with Favian best. I'm a sucker for those sorts of passages. But I really liked your comment at the end about what you notice first when you look in the mirror. I know that, hands down, I always notice my unflattering features when I look in the mirror. Rare is the day when I look in the mirror and think, "Oh yeah, I'm satisfied." I hadn't thought about that, though, so I'm very grateful to you for pointing that out!

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  2. Hi Bree! :)

    This was really interesting, and I think it'll help me a bit, too. Love the first bit about the baby--very sweet. I can envision it. :)

    God bless you!
    Joy :)

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  3. I really like your post, good job on the descriptions. Could you clarify for me please what you mean when you say you like the "smiles"? Are you talking about a characters smile, or description that makes the reader smile? Just wondering. Again I really enjoyed the post, and I totally agree with you about the short clips of description that can be slipped in so that by the end of the story the reader has a perfect idea of what the character is like.

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    1. Hi there!
      Thank you - I'm glad you liked it! I believe the word I used was "simile" - basically using like or as to describe something. (Her face was as bright at the sun.)

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    2. Ooohhh! Sorry I didn't pick that up. Now it all makes sense. Thanks for the explanation. :oD

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  4. Like Jenny, I love the Favian bit best, and I do think it's a good idea to use the bad points at time...sometimes we do tire of beauty.

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  5. Loved the writing styles. Very inspiring, I must say. This was an excellent post.

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