All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, February 13, 2023

A Special Kind of Description

It's been driven home in every writing class - description is the cornerstone of storytelling. We do exercises describing in intimate detail the various aspects of a tree, a dog, a postcard. We write about people's faces and hands, the sounds of their voices. We practice exploring just how each sense can be used. These are all valuable exercises and well worth the effort. However, one thing that often gets overlooked is discussing things as they relate to each other. This is a technique that we can really get some mileage out of without too much effort. 

Let me offer you a simple room. Within it there is a bed, a small table, a chair, and a bookshelf filled with books. That is a barebones description of the room, but definitely enough to work with. What I have described can give the reader an idea of what exists within the room, and maybe some readers will start putting together a narrative of how those items are placed. Would it help to describe the furniture in more detail? Possibly. It would definitely give a stronger visual of the room. However, describing the relationship of all these things can bring the entire room together.

First, what do I mean by the relationship between these items? Well, if I described a long table with straps hanging off the sides and bloodstains smearing the surface, with a small cart full of knives and saws next to it, the reader doesn't need to go too far in realizing how these items relate to each other. However, if the scene isn't a personal slaughterhouse, the reader might need a little prompting. And when items are mundane, the writer can describe them in a manner that prompts the reader to see the relationship. 

Now, back to our room with the bed and stuff. All the details in the world can still miss the relationship. However, simple cues can create something that fills in the room. A few examples should show how things can work.

"One side of the small room was dedicated exclusively to a bed, separate from everything else as if defining its own space. The other side of the room was packed with his bookshelf, a small reading table, and a chair between them, all nested around each other like a reading nook set aside from the sleeping area in the otherwise small room."

I have not added any physical description to our items, but our space now has character. The purpose and function of this space is a little more fleshed out, and the reader gets a feeling for this room. Before this positioning, it's just a room. Afterward, it has the feeling of a New York studio apartment (people who have lived in NY City know what this means). 

Description is more than just the senses. It's the mood, it's the feeling, it's the placement of everything the reader needs to know about. If you want to create a word picture, that's one route to go. However, don't for get that the senses aren't the only thing a writer can appeal to when creating a scene.

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