Friday, April 14, 2006

Show me. Or not.

Last night I got back comments on Bad Company from one of my readers, who really enjoyed the story itself (whew! Please God, don't let me have to rewrite major plot points like I did for Eyes of Crow) but said that my descriptions were, well, nonexistent.

First, she said she couldn't see any of the characters, even though they had distinctive, memorable personalities. The second point was lack of description in setting.

I confess, visual descriptions are my weakest aspect, maybe because I'm legally blind (without corrective lenses). Before I got contacts at fifteen, I would float through my days in a blur because I was too vain to wear my glasses. Each morning I would memorize what color shirts my friends were wearing so I could pick them out of a crowd.

Anyway, this lack of visual awareness carries over to my reading and writing. I tend to skim physical descriptions when I read, unless it's a detail that truly brings a character to life. My problem with too many novels is the overindulgence in static visual descriptions to the detriment of other factors (the sound of a character's voice, the way they move, etc.).

I've always subscribed to Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, the last three of which are relevant here:
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
By #10, he means long passages of introspection and description, possibly even hooptedoodle.

Having said that, I think my reader's correct: a few choice details here and there would go a long way toward drawing the reader into the world of Bad Company.

My agent is supposed to return comments to me on Monday, so I'll get her opinion then. I have a feeling I know what she'll say. According to this interview, her favorite novelist is Elmore Leonard.



Jeri, Jeri, Jeri.

I hear ya hon. I do. I am not a visual writer but an auditory one, like you. I slide over the same stuff you do. Then I have CP who smacks me down with...hello? Where are we? You're building a world, right? A little help please?

But for me, the characters and their voices are what carry the story. So those are my strong points. I am pretty myopic (have been since my teens), and the truth is unless you are PC Cast, I will most likely skim those descriptive passages.

What I am learning though is that a little here and there makes a gigormous difference. The trick is balance. Too much and I am floating in a sea of purple prose or boring my reader to tears. Too little and my characters are walking in a vacuum.

I think I am learning. But, it's REALLY nice to know that I'm not alone. Especially since I have to get this puppy whipped into shape and out the door.



Posted by: Blogger moonhart at 4/14/2006 10:07 PM

Speaking as a reader, it's nice to have a little bit of description, but not too much. At least in my opinion. Part of the fun of reading is making the pictures yourself. And getting to pretend that you are the hero or heroine of the story. I personally tend to skip over the major descriptions. I'd rather get to the heart of the story.

Posted by: Blogger Unknown at 4/15/2006 2:12 AM

Thanks for the feedback, ladies. It takes such a deft touch to put just the right amount of description. Sort of like a painter deciding to add just one more touch of color or light to the canvas.

Good luck with whipping the puppy, Terri. ;-)

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 4/17/2006 10:00 AM

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