I’m working on edits for a short story due in by April 30th for the Thunder on the Battlefield sword and sorcery anthology being put out by Seventh Star Press. My story takes place in the Elysian Chronicles world with Davian as my main character and Eric as a supporting character. (The story takes place at least 100 years before A Prophecy Forgotten, so you Eric haters need to give him a break here…)
In this story, which has yet to be named, Davian cements himself as a legend in battle. The problem I’ve been dealing with is keeping the balance between action and description. Description slows down action, but without description, the action takes place in a dreary white background, and the readers don’t fully appreciate the experience. During my editing, I came across this sentence:
“Davian heard a low growl to his left. Two Morvenian wolves stared at him. They howled and jumped.”
Let’s be honest. That is so non-descriptive, especially considering it is the first time I have introduced the wolves. Not only can I not see the wolves clearly, but the image I see of them doesn’t exactly fill me with dread. And I’m the author. If I can’t see them, and if I don’t fear them, how can my readers?
Since I had trouble imagining the wolves, I Googled “black wolves images” and set to work. (You can see the most inspiring picture at the top of this article. This is how the wolves would have looked from Davian’s perspective, so I kept this picture in front of me.) I wrote down words I wanted to include in my description—or at least words I wanted my audience to feel. Here are some ideas I came up with:
- Hair on backs stood on end.
- Fangs bared.
- Eyes glowed in the black backdrop
- Uncaring eyes.
- over 4 feet tall on all fours. (The official height of Morvenian wolves in my books.)
- ready to pounce
The trick would be to cram all the information into one or two sentences and sneak the rest in the prose.
I came up with this. It will probably change before it gets published, but its a good start. I have the feeling my editor will cut down all those compound sentences and take out some of the “their’s”…
Davian heard a low growl to his left. Two Morvenian wolves crouched, glaring at him with uncaring eyes that glowed against their black fur. Their hair stood on end, and they bared their blood-stained fangs. They sprang at Davian, their howls splitting through the air.
So today’s writing lesson wrap up:
- Sometimes, you just have to use Google images for descriptive help–especially if you can’t see your creatures/characters in your mind. Don’t be ashamed. Just do it. Your imagination isn’t perfect, and that’s okay.
- Make a list of the descriptive traits you want to include and see where you can fit them in. You won’t fit all of them in, but it gives you a good starting point. For instance, I don’t have time to mention the wolves’ heights.
- Don’t spend too much time on revisions during your first go-round. Plan to come back to it during your final edits. You can always make changes before you hit “send.”
Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. 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.