Saturday, January 2, 2010
One of the writing skills I am trying to improve while working on my novel is description. The challenge for me is, most of my experience with writing is news writing, where you're supposed to stick to the facts and not embellish (although many in the media today do not follow this ethic).
I have found this "just the facts, m'am" approach sneaking into my novel, which, in some ways, is a good thing because it can help with the pacing, but my concern is that I am not giving the reader enough imagery to immerse themselves in the story.
Example, I just wrote a scene where my main character was called in to the office of a big executive at her company. My first thought for the beginning of the scene went as follows:
Upon entering, I felt like I had left our office building and stepped into the penthouse suite of a five-star hotel. Two cherry wood desks, which I assumed belonged to the assistants, were positioned side-by-side along the right wall.
The scene continues with her walking over to the desks to wait for someone. My feeling was, I wanted to be concise and thought the 'penthouse suite of a five-star hotel' painted enough of a picture about what the office was like. Then, I decided to elaborate and it came out as follows:
Upon entering, I felt like I had left our office building and stepped into the penthouse suite of a five-star hotel. My feet sank into the lush, crème colored carpet as I walked forward into the entryway. Directly in front of me was a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing views of the city. To my left, a couple of fancy quilted sofas were paired with two velvet wing-backed chairs to form a comfortable waiting area. On the right were two large cherry wood desks, positioned side-by-side near the wall. Around the corner from them was an alcove that I assumed housed Nan’s actual office space. A faint scent of vanilla hung in the air, as if someone had taken an atomizer and sprayed a few strategic doses here and there.
In Jack M. Bickham's "38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes" he suggests an exercise in note taking, making detailed notes about a person or thing you are observing, then practicing distilling the elaborate description down to lean and vivid copy. He says good description "thrives on brevity, directness, simplicity, concreteness, contrast- precise, specific nouns and strong verbs." He warns of the use of too many adjectives and adverbs.
So, I'm looking for opinions about the two versions of my description. Did I hit the mark better with the first or second?
Posted by Blush a.k.a. Linda at 7:28 AM