Creating Two New Novels. Writing One Chapter Weekly. Podcasting As I Go. Welcome to The Experiment.
Part two of avoiding “boring” descriptions is all about objects and locations. We have to add more than characters to our stories. However, characters move and have feelings. Objects and locations, generally, do not. (Toy Story anyone?) How do we avoid making these stationary objects a chore for our readers to read about?
Suggestion #1: Describe the locations/objects as the character encounters them.
This is #1 because it’s my favorite piece of advice! If it were always appropriate, I’d use it 100% of the time. (But nothing is “always”)
What does Suggestion #1 mean? How many times have you described a house down to how many leaves are in the gutter and after those two or three paragraphs said, “John entered it.” But to spice up an otherwise dangerously close to being boring description, why not describe the house as it comes into view? As John sees a leaf falling and looks to see the overflowing gutter it came from. I’m guilty of setting up a location and then putting the character in it too! Look at this re-write from Chapter 1 (http://wp.me/p2sDTP-5I):
First Draft – In the living area there was enough room for the heart-shape sofa, whose back was to the sleeping area, a small glass bar on the left wall, and the stone fireplace, above which a flat panel TV was mounted. In front of the burgundy sofa laid a large, round, black fur rug made from pure sheepskin.
2nd Draft – Ava walked the two hundred feet and one step down that separate the living area from the sleeping area. She sat down on a burgundy, heart-shaped sofa. To Lily’s amazement, it looked completely elegant and not unbelievably tacky as she figured any heart-shaped piece of furniture would look.
The goal behind the design of the living area seemed to be to kick up the sexual ambiance a few notches above the rest of the room. A hard task, but mission accomplished. The dark brown walls of this section curved into a cozy semi-circle, which seemed to trap Ava in the space for safe-keeping until Lily could reach her. As Lily neared Ava, the black sheepskin rug under her feet felt as soft and as tempting as Ava looked as she sat bathed in the soft red accent light reflecting off of the glass bar. This lonely red glow cast a very romantic flair. And an extremely sensual one.
The first draft set the scene. The second draft included the characters in the scene. It avoids the boring “A” and then “B”, but intertwines them. Quite honestly, I often let myself write to just “set the scene” first in order to help my own mind visualize what the area looks like. Then I go back and add in the characters.
Suggestion #2: Describe the locations (objects) as the character reacts to them.
Example: The bed. It called Lily’s name. It wasn’t until that moment that Lily realized how tiring flying really had been on her, but it was barely six o’clock so she resisted the urge to answer the bed’s call and continued following Ava’s tour of the room. As she did, Lily wondered if the designer had been fired for even suggesting a home in Oklahoma that contained so many fireplaces. Her condo in snow-up-to-there Chicago only had one. This room had three, which thankfully, were all unlit.
Suggestion #3: Let us know how the character feels towards the object/location.
Is your character an expert on buildings? Does your character collect diamonds? Does your character love power tools? If so, let the reader know that the character is passionate about it. (or loathes it depending on the case) That way, your reader will be able to view the location/object through your character’s feelings towards it, not just a pretty (or dirty) scene. I use this one sparingly because a person can only be passionate about so many things. If you over do it, it will stop being genuine. But it is handy if your character does have a love for something or some place.
Example: The last set of stairs Lily descended brought her to the back of her destination. The first thing Lily saw was everything. Especially, the basketball gymnasium space, which was the kitchen. It took her breath away. Welcome to Lily’s playground. The second thing she saw was nothing. All of the appliances were flawlessly hidden. Even the oven was disguised as a painted country-white, wooden drawer complete with the rustic iron handles to match the rest of the cabinets. Lily only spotted it at all because it sat below the seven-burner stove top. And it wasn’t a wussy electric stove top. This house cooked with fire.
I now read the description of the kitchen through Lily’s eyes. She must love to cook because it’s “her playground”. She passionate. It’s “not a wussy electric stove top”. As I read about everything her eyes see in the kitchen, I can image her excitement.
That’s it All samples come from Chapters 1 & 2 of my novel , Enough for Four. You can listen to Chapter 1 here: http://wp.me/p2sDTP-5I. Chapter 2 will be out on podcast in 6 days!
Do you have any tips and tricks? Share them below.