In response to reader requests that the Wenches occasionally talk about how we do what we do—I am taking a broad interpretation to include craft as well as how I come up with my stories and characters. Because, truth to tell, I haven’t a clue what crossed wires create insane scenarios in my brain, and craft is a lot easier to explain.
If there are writers reading this, please feel free to jump in, because—as we all know—THERE ARE NO RULES in writing. It’s a creative process requiring we pry the stories from our heads in whatever manner works for us.
One of my favorite rants—topics—is about description. Keep in mind that writing has no rules (Ulysses is a prime example) and every author and every book is different.
That said. . . Pages of description drive me out of a book. I do not want to know the mailbox is adorned in clematis and the front walk lined with miniature roses unless a character drives a car over them. I’m aware that some people love atmosphere and want the misty fog wafting from alleyways and the soft plod of boots on pavement and muffled voices in the distance. And if that muffling fog sets us up for a chilling scream, I’m all there. But if it’s there because the author simply wants us to know she’s been to London in a fog, and nothing happens. . . I’ll skim until I reach dialogue.
Admittedly, I am an impatient reader. While I have enjoyed reading classical literature that goes into entire chapters of description, I did so because they gave me a glimpse of history from an author who lived it. These days, I can Google floor plans of great houses, descriptions of their interiors from original sources, and see colored fashion plates of the wallpaper and draperies. For all that matters, I can watch them on television.
So adding that level of detail to a novel today simply has no purpose, unless one assumes their audience is blind, deaf, and internet deprived. (the lady writing is a gif nodding off to sleep if you click on it)
Do not get me wrong. I do not abhor all description. Finding a level somewhere in between talking heads and developing realistic characters in a distinct setting depends a lot on author voice. Authors who are really good at giving characters distinctive voices can pretty much get away with talking heads, especially if they add humor. Those of us who use dialogue as a means of conveying story need to ground our characters in setting—are they throwing cabbages or climbing marble stairs as they speak? But that doesn’t require that I describe the detailing in the marble unless the heroine trips over it.
What do you think? Do you enjoy description? Can you say why? Do you have a favorite descriptive writer?
And do you mind if we do the occasional writing topic?