Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I HATE WRITING DESCRIPTION

I have always hated writing description. When I was in high-school and first taking a stab at writing novels (no, you may not see them. A) Because they were terrible. B) Because when I moved out of the house and asked my younger brother to mail them to my new address, he packed them in a flimsy box and everything spilled out at the post office and was lost to the ages. This may not, in the end, have been a purely bad thing), I would be writing along, hit a point where structure dictated description was needed, and I would write DESCRIPTION is big letters, then come back to it later.

My process hasn't changed too much since then.

The reasons are three-fold (is that a thing?). One, I am a story person, not a description person. A producer I worked with in ABC Sports' Figure Skating Department once described me as a "visual wasteland." I could knock out shootable scripts in minutes (especially if we were live on the air at the time), but when it came to pictures to go with those scripts (TV is a visual medium, I'm told), I was at a total loss.

It's the same with books. Whether as a writer or a reader, I want to know what happens next, who does what to whom, and which witty rejoinder will they toss off while doing it. I really could not care less where they are standing or what they are wearing while it's happening.

I want to get on with the story. Description is the part I always skip. And as Elmore Leonard advised, "Try to leave out the parts that readers skip."

The second reason is that I prefer to imagine what things look like, instead of having it dictated it to me. For instance, based on her personality, I always assumed Scarlett O'Hara was a redhead. Margaret Mitchell's description of her raven black hair just distracted me.

And the final reason why I hate writing description is because, like I said earlier, I like action. And I don't like stopping the action to digress on what someone or something looks like.

The novel that I am writing live on the web - typos, edits, sex scenes and all - opens with a car careening down a Northern California highway, a heroine at the end of her rope emotionally, and a hero trying to talk her down - before she kills them both.

I didn't find a lot of spots there to talk hair-dos, eye color, facial features, or to wax poetic about the scenery flashing by outside their windows. I also didn't describe the make of car she is driving. Mostly because I have no idea what kind of car she's driving. When it comes to describing cars, I peak at "blue."

It's how I like to read but, since the entire point of my live writing experiment is to get feedback from readers prior to submitting the book for publication, I am asking you: Do you need description, or would you rather imagine events for yourself? What do you think of the description I did manage to include? Does it work for you? Would you like more?

Please tell me right in the document by clicking Comments!

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