Well-written descriptions can bring a book to lifeWhen thinking of my favorite novels, it's usually the characters that come to mind first. I have a clear picture of them in my head: what they look like, how they act, if they would make good friends (of course they would). The reason for this is simple: the author has described his characters so well, that reading the novel was more akin to watching a movie.
When looking over my still too-slim novel, I noticed something I had missed completely when rushing through the first draft: I didn't describe any of the characters. The only thing I could find, is that one of the characters has blue eyes. That was it. Despite me knowing my characters inside and out, the readers would have to fill in the gaps for themselves.
And while something can be said for leaving things to the imagination (check out E. J Runyon's post), not giving any descriptions whatsoever can be off-putting for a lot of readers.
Though it doesn't come naturally to me to describe physical characteristics (since I tend to skip over them myself), this article on Creative Writing Now convinced me of their importance.
Description overload can ruin a manuscriptOf course, knowing you need to add descriptions is one thing, but knowing how much to add is another. Janice Hardy cleared it all up for me: balance is key. She gives some great examples, so be sure to check out the article.
The hardest part, of course, is incorporating descriptions while keeping true to the most important advice you can get on writing: show, don't tell.
If you haven't heard about this crucial element in writing, you're doomed. Just kidding! Although, do yourself a favor and look it up. And never admit to not knowing about it. Ever.
Denise Robbins gives sound advice on how to create effective, evocative descriptions. There are probably dozens of great articles about this, but hers is the one that got me motivated enough to start reworking my first draft.
Speaking of which, I set the goal of reaching 40.000 words by the end of next week. Better get cracking!
The Noveling Novice
How do you try to point your reader's imagination in the right direction? Do you naturally over- or under-describe?