Wednesday, November 01, 2017
The Creativity of Description
The worst mistake a beginning writer can make, in my humble opinion, is to be repetitious. I always knew when I had a group of new students who were just starting out, the girls would be beautiful, the men would be handsome, their hair would be blonde or black or red, their eyes would be blue or brown or green.
Usually, with the first group of manuscripts I critiqued, I would circle all these over-used words and ask them to find a more creative replacement.
A beautiful woman can be stunning or gorgeous or radiant or lovely. A handsome man can be striking or good looking.
Blond hair can be wheaten or flaxen. It can be a palomino mane or a waterfall of butterscotch. It can be the color of honey or butter or daffodils.
Black hair can be lustrous sable curls It can be onyx or ebony or raven.
Red hair can be ginger or rust or marigold.
Try to use more than one word to in your descriptions. Not green eyes but green the color of moss or seafoam or emerald or sage.
Blue as in cobalt, azure, sapphire or cerulean.
Brown as in hazelnut, latte, sand or fawn.
Complexion can be tan, tawny, ivory, cream or toasted.
It is exactly the same when you're describing places. Grass isn't always green. The sky isn't always blue. The dress isn't always red - maybe its flame or rose or garnet or scarlet or crimson.
I always told my students to play with their thesaurus (or, of course, now I suppose you can use Google instead). . Find words that appeal to you, that you think have a ring to them. Words that sound joyful or somber or whatever mood you want them to convey.
Another quibble I always had with new students was too many "ands". Rather have several shorter sentences than a great long string of ands. I usually went through and struck most of the ands out of manuscripts to show students how much more dynamic sentences sound without them.
Of course, in the end, it is your own style that counts. Perhaps description just isn't your cup of tea. You spend all your creativity on action. This bothers me as a reader. I want the author to tell me who his or her characters are. I don't want to have to figure it out for myself.