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Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Moods--Adventurous & . . . still Crafty

"BREAKTHROUGH: “THE ADVENTURES OF CHASE MANHATTAN" BY Stephen Tremp, will be free for (2) days on Amazon June 18th - June 19th. Be sure to download your copy! You can visit Stephen’s Website Breakthrough Blogs for more synopses and reviews.

This looks adventurous, doesn't it? Thanks for the visit, Stephen and good luck on your book.

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Last week I returned to the CRAFT of writing, specifically DESCRIPTION. I love description in a story when it's done right and creates the reality of the place and the people in it. But getting it right isn't easy.  It takes a lot of practice and, I believe, a lot of reading.

One element in description that I love is figurative language: the simile and metaphor. The biggest mistake I've made and that others also make is falling into the lazy cliché trap. "He fought like a madman." OR "Her eyes were deep blue pools." 
 
Here's some description that fell into that trap and, therefore, doesn't work--at least for me. I'll let you decide how you react to it. It will be interesting to find out if you agree or disagree with me.
 
He stood dead center in the field and listened to the mixed warbling of birdsong and the rustling sound of a breeze blowing through the tree tops. In the distance he heard the hum of traffic coming from the busy highway.
 
Whoever created the phrase "dead center" did so a long time ago. Any freshness vanished before I started reading books. So is there another way to say someone has arrived in the middle of something? How about, "He'd come half-way across the field." Not terribly exciting, but all description doesn't have to be exciting; it only has to put the reader into the place with your character(s), right? 

"Listened to" as it's used here is one of those overused/abused filter words that I find dotting my first drafts all the time. I hate them, but I can't seem to avoid them when I'm setting down a story. Thank goodness someone invented REVISION and gave writers a delete key. Take out those filter words and free your prose.

I always like a bit of detail in my description, and I don't like having to figure out too much of the setting or where the character is located in that setting. In the example above, we have a field, but then are there trees in this field? It seems as if there are, so why not give that bit to us? And why not give us the kind of tree. That's easy and it changes the feel of the setting. 
 
Why do birds have to "warble" and breezes "rustle" through tree tops? Couldn't birds sounds come to the page differently? Could they just be birdsongs? Could leaves in a breeze just be that? I think letting the reader fill in what they sound like is a better choice here.
 
So now that I've deconstructed this bit of description, it's only fair that I put it back together. This is one way I'd do it.

He'd come half-way across the field and stopped under the shade of an oak. The muffled drone of traffic coming from the highway was overlaid with birdsong and the fingers of a breeze playing through the tree top.

Okay, your turn. Maybe you'd like to DECONSTRUCT my version. There's more than one way to build a good descriptive moment.
 
 


36 comments:

  1. Description is my bane so no way I could come up with a better sentence.

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  2. thinking about what you have said

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  3. I have to keep reminding myself to tone down the descriptors time and again. I like your approach to it. :)

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  4. "He stood dead center in the field and listened to the mixed warbling of birdsong and the rustling sound of a breeze blowing through the tree tops. In the distance he heard the hum of traffic coming from the busy highway."

    Here's my take.

    Standing on the field he felt himself to be at the center of the universe. His ear caught the music of birdsong and wind dancing in the leaves, but it was all marred by the drone of traffic.

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  5. Oh, you reconstructed that nicely, Lee. I love reading good description, but I don't put enough of it in my manuscripts. Working on that ;)

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  6. great post, Lee. I love a good description. :) my descriptions tend to be overdone or flowery..LOL someone told me that. working on that one. Similes and metaphors are fantastic. I'm still trying to find my middle.

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  7. Description has always been my forte, the one thing I as always good at. It's even better if you can put it in your character's words instead of your own.

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  8. Downloaded! Thank you for the info.

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  9. Thanks for sharing the news! I just downloaded Stephen's novel. How generous of him! :)

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  10. Yay for Stephen! And thanks for the great tips on description. I tend to keep things rather sparse on that front.

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  11. I agree, when description isn't given the enough consideration or is over-used, it breaks up the fluidity of the story. I preferred your re-write, and for fun- I love moving words around so I have to participate : ) Great writing tool!

    Waiting anxiously, he stood beneath the only tree in the center of the open field. Birds breezed by indifferently, and the hum of distant traffic never stopped.

    The cover of Breakthrough does look riveting! ~ Jess
    http://thesecretdmsfilesoffairdaymorrow.blogspot.com

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  12. Thanks C. Lee for the awesome shout out! And thanks for the well wishes!

    I can;t believe all the help my fellow bloggers and blogettes have given. I'm truly touched.

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  13. Writers are amazing. I keep finding that out.

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  14. I downloaded Stephen's ebook yeserday and am looking forward to reading it.

    Wow, you did a great job of deconstructing that excerpt and rewriting it. I love your version. Bish came up with a good one, too. You made lots of valuable points in this post. Thanks, Lee!

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  15. Great job with that Lee! And great post too. This is definitely something to keep in mind when revising.

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  16. Your version is so much better. I thrive on writing metaphors and similes. Maybe it's my degree in literature, but I always appreciate fresh ways of saying and reading things. I'm sure we all do :-)

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  17. I also think your version is much better! I need to work on my descriptive writing. Julie

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  20. i like your take on it! I avoid all those other cliches.

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  21. Your new sentence is fresh and crisp. That just goes to show how overused descriptions, words, and phrases can dull the shine of lovely writing. And yet they always sneak in, don't they?

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  22. I have no problems with your sentence. I've gone from trying to describe everything to just leaving enough in my sentences to let my readers' imagination do the rest.

    In our early days of writing, we've all been in that place where we try to include everything possible description.

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  23. Wow! You really reconstructed that sentence. I would have passed right over that one since it didn't seem overly awkward to me, but you version works fine. "Dead center"? I don't think I've ever actually used it myself, but it's such a comment term that I probably wouldn't even notice it.

    I'm a big fan of the Breakthrough series--read both of them and enjoyed them thoroughly.


    Lee
    A Faraway View

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  24. I like your reconstructed sentence. It seems much clearer than the original!

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  25. The revision is so much better. I've been editing and removed cliches.

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  26. I love reading original (ie, non cliched) description. It's not always easy to do but like you said, Yay for revisions!

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  27. Description is really tough in my opinion. I try not to do the 6 page long details of scenery, mostly because I don't like to read it! :P

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  28. Stephen, that was one of the best before and afters I've seen in a long time.

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  29. I think voice also helps us choose how to word our descriptions. Lots of times it dependes on how the character might see the scene.

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  30. @Samantha, you're right. I often skim the description if it's not interesting or too long. As a writer It's good to remember to get on with the story. :-)

    @ellisnelson Voice is really a key element in description. It's wonderful to see the world through the eyes of a character!

    @southpaw glad you like the reconstruction. :-)

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  31. What a great post! You've hit it right on about the cliches too. It's hard to stay away from them but I read somewhere that using a cliche is using another writer's genius. That thought makes me want to think

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  32. Your deconstructed sentence is fabulous!! I think it's perfect enough! Yay for you!

    And yay for Stephen!!! Take care
    x

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  33. Like everything else, description and how we write it is subjective. But that's good. Then we can each be unique in the way we write it, which add to the voice.

    I spent a long time coming up with imagery for my wip, only for my beta to cut it because it slowed the pace. She was right. :P

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  34. I think you did a great job on your version...it doesn't need any deconstruction!

    Angela

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  35. You're so right about these same words coming up all the time. The trick, I think, would be to use new ones without pulling readers out of the story because the language is too noticeable.

    I, for one, wish old-fashioned handwriting would never again be described as "spidery."

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  36. I like the reframing you propose in this post. Ach, those filter words. I need a stick to knock them away.

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