By Lynn Hobbs
Besides writing, I love to read. Great descriptions in a book hook me every time. They show me a writer who continues learning the craft of writing and enjoys selecting the right words for the right situation. For me, it is a fun experience. It can be for you as well.
How can you come up with remarkable descriptions? I recommend workshops at conferences, but inquire if it’s a beginners, intermediate, or advanced class. Online classes are also helpful.
One of the easiest exercises in writing descriptions is to watch and listen to the public. Study body language. Go sit at a diner and take notes over a coffee. Honest conversation, unplanned dialogue, facial expressions, and tone of voice abound. Try the post office, grocery store, or a local restaurant. Take notes. Add emotion and people can relate to what you wrote.
And who is your audience? Do you, as a writer, write words you don’t use in your daily conversation? Words you are not comfortable with either? Would your readers have to stop and look in the dictionary for the meaning of a word you inserted?
I once critiqued a seven page chapter that included several words where the average person would not have any idea of their meaning. I brought that fact to the attention of the author. She remarked she was college educated and would not replace them with other words as it would lower her standards in vocabulary. Yes, that is her voice, and fine if her readers are college educated, but a learning experience for those who aren’t. It is my opinion that most fiction readers are reading to discover a great story, not learn new words.
If your reader stumbles over your words you could lose a reader.
One of my favorite descriptions came straight from the mouth of my nephew. He had gone to a concert. The highlight for him was when an older man joined the younger band members in an impromptu session on stage. The older man stood tall at first, and as the rhythm escalated my nephew said, “that o’ man scrunched down like a pretzel.” I could easily picture an older man bent over his guitar with his arms and legs resembling a pretzel.
What can you learn from listening? Plenty, enough to stop having your characters do anything repetitive. Something refreshing, something believable, and yes, most readers relate to something real.
Another favorite: After wearing my hair short for years, one year I let it grow out and had a spiral permanent. My hair was a bushy disaster with curls. Before cutting it off, a friend who lived out of town came to visit with her seven year old daughter. When they arrived at my front door, the little girl stared at me and exclaimed, “You’ve been growing hair.” She summed it up perfectly, and brought a smile to my day.
We all learn and grow as authors, daily. Enjoy the whole process. Happy writing!
Lynn Hobbs is the author of the Running Forward Series; a powerful faith and family saga from Desert Coyote Productions.
Book #1: Sin, Secrets, and Salvation, awarded 1st place, Religious Fiction, 2013, Texas Association of Authors.
Book #2: River Town, 1st place, Religious Fiction, 2014, TAA.
Book #3: Hidden Creek, 1st place, Religious Fiction 2015, TAA. Lillie, A Motherless Child (Christian biography) released in October.
You can find Lynn on her website at http://www.LynnHobbsAuthor.com and Facebook