More on Descriptions...

Personally, I think descriptions should always have movements. By that I mean movement with the plot, characters, or the moments. When integrating descriptions with actions or movements, you create a vivid picture in your readers' minds without taking them out of the story. To me, words are like water in a river or a creek... they keep moving, and should never stop and become stale.

What kind of movements, you ask? Well, either the setting itself moves (descriptions of a river, a waterfall, wind-blown trees, clouds, a lock of hair, darting eyes, etc.) or if they're static, let the characters move through/past them and note the pertinent details, but not everything. Just enough to evoke the readers' imagination.

"Evoke" is the key word, here. You want to use words (nouns and strong verbs) that are vivid and evocative, and try to stay away from useless, vague adjectives like "beautiful" or "quiet" or "incredible." Use all the senses, but you don't have to dwell on them. They're like seasoning... just a tiny pinch goes a long way. You'll be amazed how few words you need to complete a full picture.

For example, in the following passage from my book, The Pacific Between, I integrate the descriptions with the scene with movements and actions. That keeps the scene moving, never stopping long enough to make it stale:

Hell is a thousand needles in my eyes, and a thousand more in my head. I feel like hurling again, but I’m too tired to turn my head to the side. Finally my stomach settles. The thousand needles become more like a hundred. My throat is clammed shut. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I look around. I don’t recognize my surroundings. Dark and hot, a shack or a storage room. Boxes and junk everywhere. Paper and food wrappers all over the floor, and a few stacks of Hustler.

I try to push myself up, but my body is anchored in whatever I’m lying on. I close my eyes and breathe through my mouth. Breathe in. Breathe out. I’m going to make some sense out of this.

Eventually, I push hard enough with both my hands to prop myself up. A thin blanket slips onto the floor. I’m in a small, windowless room, on a worn-out couch, a few empty beer cans strewn around my feet. Heavy traffic outside.

I try to stand but my legs are weak. I wobble, then get hold of a plastic chair and steady myself. The place smells of dirty laundry and two-days-old Chinese takeout.


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