Is Descriptive Writing Outdated? | Describing | Creative Writing
I am consciously aware that I tend to start quite a number of my creative writing articles with a question, but today I know that this very question will automatically voice an opinion. (Another great creative writing tip: grip the reader as close to the start and with a few words that will generate cognitive opinions.) Let us begin to discuss the nature of descriptive writing…
The word on the street…
In the contemporary world of writing, there is a harmony of academic opinions that believe, quite simply, ‘telling is not selling’. They believe that telling the reader too much essentially guides the reader into an extraneous world of confusion and irrelevance. We have all sat through the films that are building the foundations of the story so articulately, that forty-five minutes into the movie we turn to a friend and say, “What is this story about?” Well a book is no different. When you are writing your own short story, novel or creative writing piece, rekindle the last book you read or film you saw that meticulously set the scene.
Telling too much in writing.
By now I really hope you have gathered your own opinion on this matter, after all, creative writing and story writing are both as subjective as beauty. The argument is that telling too much and too much descriptive writing deters the reader from important plot information. Writing enthusiast and Olivewriting.com guest writer Jack Dance argues that the most information that should be told about a character is that they are wearing a hat. Do you agree?
To many, descriptions in story writing is the magic behind a book. An author writing descriptively creates the magic dust that makes us: think we know the characters, personally; create vivid imaginary settings, cognitively; and relive the daily routine of the characters we are reading about, thoroughly. We feel what they feel, we see how they see, and we empathize with their lives. Do you ever get the bubbling sensation of wanting to be a certain character from a book or a movie? What is it about the character that you envy? Take James Bond for example; why do guys wish they could be James Bond? The Aston Martin? The job? Omega watch? The girls? The money? The guns? The excitement? The suits? The suave nature? All of us could describe the legendary 007, but would we want to be him without the descriptions? All the little details about characters are the bricks to a creating authenticity.
If we look at the fundamental nature of a story, what is its purpose? To: entertain? Explore a world beyond the readers own? Create imagery? Escape reality? All of the above? Every reader is different and every reader will read for a different purpose every time they pick up a book, therefore their preference for how much detail they will want to read will adjust accordingly.
- Determine whether all your descriptions are necessary for the plot of the story; any irrelevant information cut it out.
- Try to show character traits through ‘showing’ rather than telling. For example: telling the reader that a character has grubby clothes suggests that he is poor/works on a building site or doesn’t care about his appearance. Either way the information is important.
- Try to write the plot first. As a writer you want to get into a fluent flow of writing you don’t want to be getting bogged down with descriptions. Descriptions can always be added in to emphasize.
- Remember: the reader is reading for the storyline and plot; the descriptions are merely designed to illustrate and assist the storyline.
- Use the descriptions in your story to create imagery in the readers’ heads. Describe well, don’t describe half-heartedly.