Fringe Fiction discussion

36 views
Fringe Fiction General Chat > Description in narration

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
I'm hoping I'm underestimating the reader's patience for an author establishing a scene with a few embellishments. That a page or two of detail towards the backdrop isn't too much a demand or too long a break from the ever-insistent need for action and pacing. Does something always need to be "happening" for a story to be engaging.

Thoughts?


message 2: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 506 comments Not for me, but again it depends how it's done, how it's written. If the words bring thoughts to mind, if the words transport you in a world of its own, the happening is not in the action, but in the magic of the words themselves. (Does that make sense?)


message 3: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
Totally. I'm just apply weird pressure to myself here, like I'm not allowed to discuss something in dialogue for more than two pages or have a description longer than two paragraphs.

It's just a source of stress in my life that probably doesn't need to be there.


message 4: by Wren (new)

Wren Figueiro | 216 comments I think it depends on how strong your characters are and how much people want to read about them. I'm not a fan of lengthy descriptions, but for instance in Outlander, she gives some pretty intricate descriptions, and I didn't even notice how long they were because I wanted to be in the characters' world and immerse myself in what they were living.

I've read other books though where I would get so bored with the descriptions because they added no value at all to the story. I don't need to know about that 20 shades of green in a grass blade unless the character talking about it is made more unique to me by rambling about it.


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Crawford (jasonpatrickcrawford) | 591 comments I read fast enough that description is only a problem if I really notice it :) I basically "download" stories into my head, filling in un described details and applying described ones, so if there is so much description that it brings me out of the story...


message 6: by G.G. (last edited May 01, 2014 09:44AM) (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 506 comments @ Courtney No and it shouldn't be. No matter how you write it, there will always be some who will say too much of this while others will claim you don't have enough. You have to live with the simple truth that you can't please everyone.

Funny you mention dialogues because when well done, the dialogues can go much further than people think. If the dialogue helps move the story along, then it doesn't matter if it's 1 paragraph of 10 pages.

In fact, I love books with a lot of great dialogues. I will rarely stop reading in a middle of one, while I won't be bothered at all if I need to stop during a description or even in the middle of some action.

With great dialogues I'm always 'oh, geez, I have time for a little more' and I tend to finish those books faster. (Or maybe they are actually faster to read and that's why I like them ... hmm food for thoughts.)


message 7: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
Excellent point. That's just an issue always creeping into my head be described and discussed. Hopefully people will be fascinated since so much is like appearing in a rundown carnival or snowshoe that's all made from fabricated material like glass and foam. That takes time to describe just for the sheer oddity and I hope readers get into it.


message 8: by Jason (new)

Jason Crawford (jasonpatrickcrawford) | 591 comments When I write, I write descriptions at the speed of character - if the character pauses to observe, I write more than if he/she is engaged in an activity.


message 9: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
yeah I give books I read/write a pass on "description time" since what our brain notices in a second could take a page to describe


message 10: by Rachel Annie (new)

Rachel Annie (snapdragoness) Jason wrote: "When I write, I write descriptions at the speed of character - if the character pauses to observe, I write more than if he/she is engaged in an activity."

This is a great rule of thumb. : D

And I agree with what others have said about staying immersed in the world. As long as it doesn't pull the reader of if the story, you're good to go. (Easier said than done, I know...)


message 11: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Roberts | 616 comments I too tend to have difficulty with limiting description. I have this vision in my head and it is a struggle for me not to layout every detail down to the innards of the building. In the first draft of my book, I had something like 8 pages describing an apartment. It was insane. In the end, I cut it down to less than a page and then worked the other import bits in here and there.
Personally, I don't mind necessary description - like in your case, Courtney. What kills me are lengthy details about a hill and some trees.


message 12: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
Oh yeah, Sarah, I'm more focused on creepy taxidermy wind-up toys springing to life than wallpaper patterns...unless a puzzle is involved...hmmm...


message 13: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Roberts | 616 comments Every time you speak of your book it makes me want to read it more and more.


message 14: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
:D


message 15: by Yzabel (new)

Yzabel Ginsberg (yzabelginsberg) | 176 comments I'm usually not up for long descriptions, but like many other things when it comes to writing, it really depends in the end on how exactly it's done.

Things I'd keep in mind:

1) Time spent on observation, from the character's point of view. Worth for 1st person narratives, of course, but more generally for any scene in which description is triggered by what the character actually has time to notice. For instance, I just can't imagine myself pausing for 2 minutes to muse about a person's eye and hair colour, about her clothes, etc., unless there's something really striking about those ("oh that intricate lace pattern on your goth dress is so aweseome, can I touch it and have a closer look?"). A character doing that without a reason would definitely make me raise an eyebrow at best, or roll my eyes.

2) Is the description useful, and does it play an important part in the story? Example: if it involves a setting (house, garden...) where the characters regularly come back to, or an important item, description is important. But as a reader, I really don't give a fig about a 5-page long description of a statue I'll only see in the first chapter, and that will never be mentioned again later. Not do I care about the shape and texture of every snowflake during a winter storm, or about every item the characters sample at breakfast every morning.

3) Overall understandability. Example: maybe the author's an architect IRL, and can describe a house with many technical terms. However, most readers won't know those words, so this author would have to keep that in mind. Not necessarily dumb down the description, but maybe trim down the really specific little details in favour of something that is easier to picture (perhaps through the eyes of a character who doesn't know much about architecture?).

4) Thesaurus rape. Descriptions with too many flowery and unusual terms tend to come off as pompous, as an attempt by the author to "look smart", and/or as silly purple prose. Again, it doesn't mean we have to dumb down... but let's call a penis, a penis, and not a "lubricated turgid shaft throbbing with all the might of his manly desire". (I can't believe I've just written that.)

And if you can write a long and beautiful description that managed to catch my interest? Then congratulations, because it's not easy. ;)


message 16: by Lily (new)

Lily Vagabond (lilyauthor) I think I mentioned it on this thread, but I can't find my comment, so I'm assuming I forgot to comment. Apologies in advance if this is a repeat.

With good writing, I find it isn't noticeable when there's long description.

Length of description, I feel is completely dependent on whether the story is character-driven or plot-driven. I suspect that readers who prefer character-driven, as I do, will find plot-driven related long descriptions boring.

Last but not least, I don't feel the question is whether there should be description in narration or not. I feel the question is, does the story need the descriptions?


message 17: by Dina (new)

Dina Roberts Overall understandability. Example: maybe the author's an architect IRL, and can describe a house with many technical terms. However, most readers won't know those words, so this author would have to keep that in mind. Not necessarily dumb down the description, but maybe trim down the really specific little details in favour of something that is easier to picture (perhaps through the eyes of a character who doesn't know much about architecture?).


I agree with this. Sometimes I read books and wonder...am I supposed to know what this is?

I think it's fine to have a few unfamiliar things in a book. People can skip over it if they don't care. Or in this day and age they can google it. I do that sometimes.

I'm thinking you need to title your next book. "Lubricated Turgid Shaft".


message 18: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
Lubricated Turgid Shaft sounds like a special attack from an anime


message 19: by Yzabel (last edited May 01, 2014 12:12PM) (new)

Yzabel Ginsberg (yzabelginsberg) | 176 comments Courtney wrote: "Lubricated Turgid Shaft sounds like a special attack from an anime"

A very hentai anime, then. -_-
Have I created a monster here?


message 20: by Mark (new)

Mark Courtney,
I think sometimes writers have a tendency to think too much about what a potential reader will like or not like. Remember that the first draft is for you. If you want to write long descriptions then I would do it and not feel the tiniest bit of guilt. If, when you read through on your first edit, you decide that you went on a little long, or it gets "boring" then you can cut it down. That's what editing is for.
Stress and self-doubt can stop the creative process in its tracks. I wouldn't stress about it until you've finished the book.


message 21: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
Good point Mark. It'll probably balance out at some point ')


message 22: by Michael (new)

Michael Benavidez | 1720 comments My writing tends to dwell on description since I like to focus on the atmospheric aspect of it all, but at the same time too much can upset a reader. in the end though it all depends on the reader and what they like, as well as how exactly it's written. at least that's the lesson I've learned from it lol


message 23: by F.W. (new)

F.W. Pinkerton (FWPinkerton) | 28 comments I tend to write for myself, as I enjoy immersing myself in my own little world and if people like it that's awesome, but if some don't, then so be it. I think I am probably slightly over descriptive with environment, but I still love reading the classics like Dickens etc so maybe my bias is slightly old fashioned in this fast moving world.


message 24: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 506 comments Oh I didn't know it was a draft. By all mean, write them. Even if you have to delete half of it if not more when you'll edit. It'll help you get in the heads of your characters. They'll be more alive to you and if they are, chances are that it'll transpire in your book for your readers to enjoy.

In mine, I had loads of things that were deleted on my first edit. Even if it added more work to the editing, it helped me along the way while writing. Because of the descriptions, mini side stories, etc that didn't make the cut, I knew how a character would react way before I actually wrote the scenes. You may end up keeping only a sentence or two, but how can you know what will work if you don't put it in?


message 25: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Wells | 1890 comments Mod
Maybe I'll just get all dandy and cull things later. I used to have a "remove 10%" policy from my manuscript to polish it up but I might be less strict there. Don't want to shortchange the readers because I'm nickel and dimeing words ^^


message 26: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 1398 comments Mod
I sometimes write in narration although thats different compared to describing things. I think you want to describe details so the reader understands but you also dont want to drag it out.
Perfect example of this is a book by Agatha Christie in which she described a curtain for a good 6-7 pages, the point being, there is a limit to detail and a difference between description and madness.


message 27: by M.D. (new)

M.D. Meyer (mdmeyer) | 159 comments I find action that goes on and on can be just as boring as descriptions that go on and on. James Rollins action novels are like that. I've read almost all of them. They have great themes (which is why I read them) but just too much action. There needs to be a balance.


message 28: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 287 comments Anyone else read or reading The Goldfinch? The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The author is writing, intentionally, in the depth of detail found in the great Dutch masters' paintings, like the Goldfinch painting of the title. It can be captivating, and then at times slow. I suppose she does it because life is like that. I admire her skill and awareness and yet get impatient. Writers who can capture setting and appearances with precision--at the pace of the character's awareness--are the best. I don't like it when there is no description at all. I once got a long way into a book and had decided to visualize the protagonist one way--she was not described, so I invented her appearance--and half way through I finally got a "look" at her and had to redo my image.


message 29: by Lena (new)

Lena | 187 comments Amber wrote: "I once got a long way into a book and had decided to visualize the protagonist one way--she was not described, so I invented her appearance--and half way through I finally got a "look" at her and had to redo ..."

I have done that, too. I like at least a bit. I read Looking for Alaska picturing this blonde actress for Alaska the entire time, only to find out on the last chapter that she had dark hair! To be fair, the narrator describes her body in great detail time and again, but a mention that she has a head of some sort would have been nice before the end.


back to top