AS WRITER’S WE all have weaknesses and one of the aims in honing the craft is to strengthen them until they are as polished as possible.
The weakest link metaphor is very pertinent in writing, mainly because it seems every writer I have ever read, and every book I have read has weaknesses, although some writer’s deficits are still superior to many other’s strengths. Books are such a different medium to audio or visual arts. We look across the text with searching eyes, every error, every lull in the action is processed. It’s about as intimate as it gets. And every sentence full of life, with meaning, and imagery can stick in the mind long after the covers close.
Generally I love good description – hardly an earth shattering statement to startle Atlas. In a book, with only words to guide they are crucial. But overly descriptive text is equally as dull. Is there a happy medium?
I usually go with the less-fat-the-better route on descriptions. Cut to the chase! is not something I want others to think of my writing, and it’s not something I want to be thinking reading other people’s stories. By cutting it fine, there can be a danger of not including enough framework for the reader to engage in a scene. Do you describe the clothing, hair, facial features? And the buildings interior? The carpet, the furniture, the pictures? It is a lot to potentially throw at the reader.
I generally find that one memorable item or feature, is far superior to three, four, five or an elongated list of who, what and where. A vase of dead flowers on a table tells me more about the character of the person who lives in a house faster, than a run through of the living room details.
There is also the consideration of word count. Many overly elaborate descriptions become boggy to read and put the reader through more effort. It can be positive and not so much. But good descriptions that are concise as well as original can leave me happy to have read them, that little flash in the brain that recognises something special on the page.
Thoughts on descriptive text: Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Agree to agree?