It seems like there are some posts that come up a dozen times a month on the writing boards: prologues, description, writing rules, the best POV to write in. There is no right answer for any of these things. The most successful authors in the world break all the “rules” for example (Stephen King), have prologues (Dan Brown), have books with three page descriptions of button down shirts (I’m looking at YOU, Anne Rice.)
Some people, like myself, LOVE description. Not the four page shirt kind, but the “he had orange eyes” kind. Orange eyes…that’s interesting. Anywho, the people who claim they hate description forget that 90% of the novel is the author describing stuff to you. The rest is dialogue. Read that again. Now go read a book. ANY book.
They describe how the character is walking, talking, acting, interacting. Description isn’t just hair or clothes or eye color. Which by the way, if I’m reading a book and they don’t describe the MC at all, it drives me crazy. Like, anything will do. Anything at all. If I have to make it up myself, it slows me down and then I’m annoyed. Like how hard it is to say, “He shook his tawny curls out of his eyes?” How hard is that?! We’re writers. It’s our job to paint a verbal…nonverbal?…picture for the reader. It’s our JOB. Read that again. Now go read a book.
When we describe the rich tapestry draped libraries, the Victorian lake-side mansions, the dilapidated shacks hidden down dark, neglected alleys that our homeless thirteen year old MCs live in, we’re painting a picture. When we describe the scarred, banished princesses with their tangled auburn hair and rich silk dressed fashioned into a vest and trousers, we’re painting a picture. And when we’re painting a picture, we’re immersing the reader in the story. Description is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Now, I understand the description shyness. People can over-describe (coughAnnecough) and scare you. I was scared of character and setting description for years. However, fact is, it wasn’t until I became un-scared of description, that my writing improved to that next level.
There are lots of ways to convey how a character looks though. Height for example can be conveyed by describing how a character interacts with their environment. (for example: she stood up on her tip-toes to get the plate off the top shelf of the cabinet.) Now, I’m obsessed with eyes, so I’m going to give you eye color for important people, especially if their eyes are ORANGE because how freaking cool is that? Also, it’s my book and I will do what I want.
Think about it: How many times did JK Rowling tell us Harry Potter had a freaking lightning scare on his head, dark hair like his father, and green eyes like his mother (made confusing by the fact that Daniel Radcliffe’s eyes are blue.) And all those other things she described: how butterbeer tastes, the inside of the common rooms, the classrooms, the teachers, the wand shop…all those ways she painted such a vivid picture that we feel like we’re actually there experiencing it as it happens. All of which is made cooler when we see the movie and it’s like, OMG, I really HAVE been there…kind of.
Peeta was blond. Katniss had long dark hair and steel gray eyes. The gorgeous Gale looked like a dude version of her. They lived in a dusty, sad, poor place. Her sister and mum were blondies, and they had a big fat mean orange cat. Fluffy cat. I like fluffy cats. Like, it’s okay to describe what people look like and how beautiful the beach is. People like it. And the ones that don’t can skip over it the way I skipped over Anne Rice’s three page shirt descriptions. See that? Easy and done. Don’t short change yourself and all those readers who love character and setting description because you’re afraid. And I happen to know someone that really love three page shirt descriptions. I’m actually friends with said person. Variety is the spice of life.
In the first three Chapter One versions of my current story, I had an opening in which not a single person says my MC’s name. I finally realized it and put it in there once. Lol! There’s your random note of the day.
In conclusion =^^= I hope all old and new aspiring writers realize one day that there is not only nothing wrong with description, but that the majority of the novel is description so quit hating on it because like, seriously, you can’t write a book without it. Read that again. Now go read a book. ^^