Now on to my Crafty Mood. I've been so tied up with the business of writing that I feel as though I've neglected the craft. I need to return to that and remember that launches are not possible without actual writing.
One thing I've been doing a bit more of is reading and paying close attention to how the stories I really enjoy pull me into their characters and the worlds these characters inhabit. I love the fast-paced action and the tight dialog, but I also like those quiet moments when the author DESCRIBES the characters and the setting for me.
Description is an important piece of a story, and to bring that story to life on the page requires such skill on the part of writers. They have to translate the sight, sound, smell and feel of the people and places so the readers have access to them, have a sense of what the characters look like, how they're experiencing something or being affected by it. And they have to do it without resorting to clichés--the bubbling brook, the attractive woman, the bustling city, the stinky socks or the meow of the cat.
Appealing to all the senses adds depth and reality and allows the reader more of a chance to really lose himself in the prose. Here's one passage I love because it tackles two of our senses to deliver up the character.
"Zalatnick led me into the shop not as if I was a fellow looking for a job but as if I was a friend of a friend. I was sure the men in the shop could smell the difference."
Here's Stephen King on DESCRIPTION: "Thin description leave the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium."
How true, Mr. King. The craft is all about knowing what to include and what to leave out. If the writer includes just the right amount, the left-out portion allows the reader to interact and become one with the story. This is such an incredible skill that I think I'll be focused on it for a while, so if you visit here for the next few weeks, I'll be writing about what I'm learning about DESCRIPTION.
What brought this post on were these pictures of spider-webbed trees, an unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan earlier this year. It seems millions of spiders escaped the rising waters and stayed among the branches, creating these surreal images. When I saw them I wondered how I'd put something like this into words. My first try was to call these trees captured by smoke. How would you describe what you see if you were writing a description of these trees?