Tuesday, February 3, 2009

See It, Feel it, Write It

“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.” -- Stephen King in On Writing.
This quote goes along with Friday’s suggestion to write description under the assumption the reader is blind. Of course, before I can write an accurate description, I need to have a vivid picture of the scene in my mind. The second part of this quote is perhaps more important. It doesn’t matter how clearly I see something if my writing is so obtuse that the reader can’t envision what I’m describing. This happened in a few stories where I tried to write -- for lack of a better word -- “literary” descriptions with metaphors and similes galore, only to have people comment that I’d over-written the scene. I guess the KISS (keep it simple stupid) method applies to writing also.

Here’s the opening paragraph of a story I’m working on that has received favorable comments, so far. If you'd like to comment about the descriptions, please do.
Evie sat on a metal chair in a cramped office sequestered in a section of the mall she never knew existed and waited for the young man who escorted her there to return. She squinted at the corkboard fastened to the opposite wall. On it hung discolored instructions explaining what to do in case of fire, a top ten list, its edged rolled inward, of ways to improve customer relations, and an employee of the month citation for someone named Gordon. Evie hooked the cuff of her sweater with arthritic fingers, pulled it back and glanced at her watch.


AVR said...

This is so true, how to put on paper the description of something. To then be able to use words to translate it to readers so that they "see" in their mind's eye what you are talking about. I think this is one of the hardest things for a writer to do. I liked what you wrote. As I read it I pictured that person in that cramped room and could "see" what she was looking at. Very nicely done!

Loren Christie said...

Hi Jim,
I used to work as a supermaket cashier. The details you've added are interesting, but not overdone. The description reminds me of the bulletin board in the break room where I worked. This is an intriguing beginning.