3 July 2013, Writing Ideas - Description 101
Announcement: My novels Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness are about to be published. I write this blog about 2 months prior to its publication. I just heard that the proofs will be here soon--likely before the end of the week. My publisher also wants to put the entire set of novels based on Aegypt on contract--that's 5 more novels for 8 total. They also want to put my other novels on contract. The release schedule should be one novel every 2 months. I'll keep you updated.
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
Here are my rules of writing:
1. Entertain your readers.
2. Don't confuse your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
Description is a necessary part of writing. I return to Arlo Guthrie Jr.'s
advice that whenever you introduce a character you must provide a 100 to 300
word description that defines the physical characteristics, not necessarily
internal characteristics of the character. Internal characteristics must be
developed through showing us the character--don't even think about telling us
what they think. Tell us what they look like--you can skillfully slip into this
description something about the person's character. Telling is necessary in
setting the scene and then letting the character loose in the novel. This is not
a break from the rule of showing and not telling. This is setting the
Character description example from Aegypt www.AegyptNovel.com:
Paul clasped the Englishman’s hand as he dismounted.
Lionel Audrey was a
medium-height man with thinning brown hair. He wore a heavy wool suit, but he
had removed the coat. Perspiration salted his brow and made his face glisten.
looked young, but his eyes were surrounded by wrinkles. He squinted
out from under his thick glasses as if the glass wasn’t the right prescription,
or as if he sought to penetrate further than just the surface. In spite of this
impression, Audrey’s attitude was breezy and facile. He didn’t speak; he
lectured in an arrogant Oxford accent.
You can see how this gives life to
the character and sets him apart from everyone else in the novel. When Audrey is
reintroduced and mentioned, there are many characteristics that can be used to
refer to him that brings the character back into the minds of the
Likewise, you must set the scene. Tell us about the weather, the
environment, the feel of the place, and what it looks like.
setting from Aegypt www.AegyptNovel.com (place
The sun rose like a flame. The horizon boiled with the
vigor of the lifting sun, and across the scorched rock and sand, the wind sang
along with the moving light. Shadows moved in its wake
across the already hot
plain. Paul already felt the sweat on his back and neck. The still air in the
fort left the perspiration warm and heavy under his clothes, and he longed for
the morning wind to make its way to him.
Without warning, a swirl of air
touched him, but it wasn’t any relief. The breeze was hot and filled with the
acrid dust of the Chott Djerid depression. He could feel it in his lungs, and he
lit another cigarette to wipe the vile taste away. Below him, the wind-born dust
swirled in tiny dust-devils around the diggings. The desert itself seemed to be
trying to cover over the
gaping wound there.
The Tunisian workers were
already stirring, ready to enter the cooler depths of the pit, ready to dig for
the gold they hoped to pilfer under the noses of the archeologists, and they
would. Paul had seen it happen too many times before. Their culture was
different. The Englishmen wouldn’t or couldn’t understand that.
a long drag on his cigarette, nearly burning it back to his fingers. The sun
stood like a flaming ball precariously balanced on the horizon for a moment, and
Paul wondered briefly whether it would go forward or fall back.
down at the diggings. The shadows wavered crookedly across the dark opening.
Paul fancied he could see the essence of the ages spilling out of that black
hole. It lingered in the waste as if the ancient plain were as timeless as the
secrets hidden under that dull and
This tells us a
lot about the time, day, weather, and scene. This allows the reader to fall into
the narrative and see what is happening. We also discover something about what
is going on without telling the reader--we show the reader. We pull it from the
knowledge of the main character without telling.
See more writing secrets at www.ldalford.com.
For more information, you can visit my author site www.ldalford.com/, and my individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel, http://www.centurionnovel.com, www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.