How much description needed for sense of place? - Page 4


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Thread: How much description needed for sense of place?

  1. #31
    Member Justin Attas's Avatar
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    The quick answer (which may or may not be right), for people- show those traits through their actions. The readers will pick up on it, and appreciate the organic communication of personalities, both verbal and non-verbal. For place- the depth and vividness of description is far more important than quantity. Use a blend of figurative and literal descriptions of the landscape. Never more than a paragraph or two at a time, but get deep. Describe oceans of wheat and the damage the bite of an early winter can do. Marry those descriptions with how your characters deal with them, and you're looking at a solid homesteading experience readers couldn't mistake for anything else.
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  2. #32
    I try to think about the reader. Would they know what I'm describing? I mean, if my character goes to Walmart, I likely don't need to describe much about it, because the reader likely knows at least a little about Walmart. But if the character boards an FTL ship, they will need more to set the scene. I don't know much about the area you wrote about here, so I'd like to know more, to understand the story better.

    Another thing I have a note taped to the computer about is to use the senses and emotions. You don't need long, effusive scenes about place or character, sometimes it can be summed up in a few sentences or paragraphs that set the reader firmly into the story. It's more a matter of practice, learning how to use words without being long-winded, to learn how to pick out the important details and leave out the rest.

  3. #33
    Like so many writing topics, the answer is that there is no answer. It's a matter of style, and possibly of genre.

    You'll find a school of thought recommending you merely provide hints to a description, and let the reader's imagination fill in the details.

    Then you have something like Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, where the first page is a highly detailed description of Marlowe's attire and the room he enters. We have yet to find out anything about the character or the story.

    There are great authors and popular novels using both styles. For myself, I lean toward the minimalist style. I only go into deep description where I really want to set a mood, I want to be sure the reader sees a marked difference between two things, or more details are important to upcoming action or dialogue.

    As an example, if a character enters a wine cellar, I'd normally just say that. But I had a scene where two enemies were locked in a life and death cat and mouse game in a wine cellar. I described it in great detail there, because the characters' actions would have made little sense without an understanding of the layout.

    But here's how minimalist can fool the reader:
    Trust me, I'm mostly minimalist. For one novel, one reviewer said "Beautiful descriptive writing pulled me in". Another said, "The richness of (the) descriptions". I just kind of had to chuckle. Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted readers had that experience. It just wasn't something I focused on. In fact, that was an early effort, and I decided my first draft was "adjective heavy". I pulled out a LOT of description in the second draft. LOL

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