Tag Archives: creative writing challenges

Two Heads are Better Than One: It’s Not Just a Sesame Street Song!

I can’t stand it when writers get too descriptive. It’s not that I don’t understand the value of description. It’s not that I don’t see the skill that a beautiful and clear description requires. After a certain point, I just stop caring. It’s nothing but a big yawn for me.

julie campbell writer - writing descriptionYes, description is needed to tell the story. If I begin a story that dives right into a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Character with absolutely no insight into who they are, how they look, and where they are, then I have lost an opportunity to give you, Reader, the chance to imagine the story in the way that I do.

After all, if I don’t tell you that Mr. and Mrs. Character are having their conversation on the deck of a sailing ship, then you might be imagining them in their kitchen, sitting on the porch, or on a picnic blanket at the park. Even if I do tell you that they’re on the deck of a ship, I need to tell you that they’re on a sailing ship or you might think that they are on a massive cruise liner.  For that matter, are Mr. and Mrs Character merely passengers, or is Mrs. Character actually a pirate queen who terrorizes the nine seas (it’s my world, it can have nine seas)?

However, if I spend the first thirty pages of the book describing the precise wood used to construct the deck of the ship, the type of sealant that was applied to protect it against the salt in the seawater, the name of the family that developed said sealant, the back story on how they came into the sealant-development business, the precise shade of brown that is achieved after the application of the sealant, the number of knots per plank and the difference the sealant makes in the clockwise swirling pattern of the knots in the surface of the deck, and so on, then I’m pretty sure that I’ll have lost your attention halfway through the first paragraph. I know that my mind would certainly have wandered by then (possibly to a story from a book that wasn’t as overly descriptive).

At the same time, though, I love to write description. I adore describing a scene. Since, I can see everything very clearly in my head, I want to share that image with everyone who is experiencing the story that I am telling in the Book. But where do I draw the line? It is in this area that I find myself relying very heavily on Amanda’s opinions. I haven’t come to the point that I have had the guts to ask for it (although, being a very smart person, she may see the subtle hint in this post), I think it’s coming close to the time in which I am going to need some extra help in the editing process to know when it’s time to just shut up.

I am confident that I can do my part in giving the book some polish, but this was a team writing effort and I know that it will be a team editing effort, too. We can only work on it independently for so long and then it’s time to get out the boxing gloves.  I only hope that I will be able to take the criticisms of the length of certain descriptions with dignity and not break down into a ball of tears on the floor. If the next post sounds a little bit cranky-pants, then you’ll know that things are off to a rocky start and that I’m clinging to that thirty-page ship-deck description. Wish me luck!

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