Writing: Editing Your Description

Description is like salt. Too little salt makes your dish taste hollow. Too much, and your dish makes your guests vomit. I blogged on how I needed to edit my description in Out of the Shadows, book II of the Elysian Chronicles in the blog entry, “Writing: Applying Peer Editing Advice.” I’m continuing thoughts on description here. To keep your description balanced, first remember that description has four purposes (the way I see it, anyway):

  • Description paints a picture. This is description’s obvious function.
  • Description sets the mood and affects emotion. Description does for books what a soundtrack does for movies.
  • Description “drugs” your reader. (He he he.) Description activates different parts of your reader’s brain, making your reader see, smell, taste, hear, and feel what’s not there. It forces your reader to use imagination. Stimulating these senses not only creates an emotional attachment to your story, but also a physical attachment. I’m convinced reading creates a small, natural high—although I don’t have any science to prove it.
  • Description “haunts” a reader. How many of you want to visit Middle Earth? Hogwarts? If you work your description right, the world you create will follow your reader even after he or she finishes your book. You want this. World-haunting creates sales of your next book. (Note: the amount of haunting depends on genre and audience. Mystery readers look more for the thrill of solving the mystery than the thrill of experiencing a fantasy world. However, remember Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s luscious description in Hound of the Baskervilles helped make it a timeless classic.)

Stephen King tells us in his book, On Writing, that as writers, we must communicate what’s in our heads to our readers. To that, I add that we must do so using as few words as possible. This creates a problem with writing description. Description takes words! Since I’m editing description in Out of the Shadows right now, I’ll spend a couple blogs discussing techniques I use and why. We’ll cover these three points:

  • Make it Matter!
  • Bring your world to life!
  • Make it blend!

Stay tuned for my next blog, “Description: If it Doesn’t Matter, Axe It!”

Be sure to check out my new To Elysia and Back Again podcast every Tuesday! Click here for more information.

Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason, which is being adapted into a graphic novel series by Wandering Sage Publications, Inc., with Weston penning the script and KISS comic book artist, Adam Black, doing the art. Weston hosts a podcast on her To Elysia and Back Again blog, which can be downloaded on itunes. Click here for a complete listing of the To Elysia and Back Againpodcast episodes. Weston is also the host of The Final Cut in Movies, an internet radio talk show about science fiction and fantasy movies on Ad Astra Radio, which can also be heard as a podcast on M. B. Weston’s Podcasts site or on iTunes. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.

About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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