Description- How far can we take it?


Many of you who follow this blog know I have my issues with description.  I hate long, boring narratives that “tell” me how something looks.  As a habit, I tend to skip over these parts, rather than read them.  Yet some authors do have a talent for keeping my attention.  Not all description is boring.  There are ways to make it exciting and even amusing.  I’ve been pondering this for some time on how I could get my point across to others so they see where I’m coming from.  The following are samples where in the first case it is not all that exciting and the second has more oomph.

Example 1

a) I walked through the field, noticing the grass was dry and brittle from the recent drought.

b) As I walked across the field, deadened grass crunched under my feet.  The imprints left a clear trail for anyone else to follow.  A glance up revealed a pale blue sky without a cloud in sight—the same as every other day for the past three months.

I could go on to make this scene even longer and even more detailed, but I’m going to stop there. The example above isn’t exciting, but should show you the difference between boring and vivid.  Now here is a different scene with a little more action.

Example 2

a) I climbed the fence and found it to be more difficult than I anticipated.  The wires cut into my skin and caused me to bleed.  My clothes weren’t enough protection and the risk of getting caught grew.  I hadn’t planned this part of my mission very well.

b) Scaling security fences with concertina wire coiled on top was tricky business, even with my denim jacket crushing it down. The razor-sharp ends cut through my clothes and sliced into my skin, resulting in crimson rivulets running down my arms. The last thing I needed was DNA evidence left behind. Next time, I swore I would wear thicker clothes.

In the first case, the narrative tells you the basics of what you need to know about the scene.  In the second, it personalizes it and adds more detail.  In both examples, I think most people could agree that “b” is better than “a”.

Now, here is a chance for you all to take a scene and improve on it.  You will probably do a better job than I did in the two cases above.  In fact, I hope you do!  Since everyone will be using the same example, please write yours out before checking others.  You must keep it under 200 words (the example you’ll draw from is 49 words).  Feel free to add details to what is provided, but don’t take any away. Whoever has the best one will get their book cover (assuming they are an author) on the front page of this blog for the next week.  If they aren’t an author, we’ll let them decide what book to put up or pass the opportunity on to the next best.  I’m not sure if posting the cover will result in sales, but it can’t hurt to try it out! If I get a positive response to this exercise, I may do more in the future.

I’ll give twenty-four hours to ensure as many people as possible have a chance to participate (that is until 2pm tomorrow, EST).  At that time, I’ll hold a vote to select who will be the winner.  The poll will be inserted into the bottom of this post and only open until midnight (EST).  This is a reward to my loyal followers who read my blog posts, which is why I haven’t titled this as a contest at the top (I’m sneaky like that).

*As an additional favor, if you have a typo or a word (maybe two if I’m generous) you want to change after posting, I’ll give you one edit.  You must email me (see my About Me page) and tell me exactly what you want changed.  It must be a small change, no re-writing of whole sentences.  This is a privilege extended for this contest, it does not apply to my monthly contests.

Rewrite the following:

Denise walked into the office to find the man she had spent years searching for.  Without a word she raised her gun and shot him.  He fell back, clutching his chest with surprise on his face.  She felt no remorse for her actions, the man had killed her father.

 

 

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~ by Suzie on February 24, 2012.

14 Responses to “Description- How far can we take it?”

  1. Well this is a fun little challenge, Susan! I couldn’t resist. (180 words)

    Denise turned the knob and pulled open the door to the office in one smooth and graceful arc. She held her shoulders back, her expression carefully blank. The man at the desk looked up expectantly, no lines of concern or suspicion on his face. It had been years; what did he have to fear anymore? Well, she hadn’t forgotten, hadn’t stopped searching. She locked her eyes on his as she raised her arm. It took a moment for him to register the gun in her hands. The single crack split the air. He jerked back against his tall, ergonomic chair, clutching his pristine, ironed shirt that now sported a hole. Smoke wafted back to fill her nostrils, but she held her ground, frozen, savoring this moment. He glanced at the blood pooling between his fingers, then up at her, his brows quirking into confusion. Denise lowered the gun and continued to stare at him as his hands began to tremble and his ragged breaths hiccuped in his chest. She wanted to watch him die. The man had killed her father.

    Now I’m off to work on such things in my own book. 😉

  2. Okay… you asked for it. 200 words
    (J Bryden Lloyd – Author)

    Denise walked deliberately from the heat of the early Summer morning, along the deserted, stuffy hallway and into the gentle breeze of the air-conditioned office. She scanned the room quickly, confirming that none of the other employees had yet arrived.

    The hatred burned as she turned to find the man she had spent years searching for. He looked younger than she expected; styled blonde hair moving in sympathy with the desk fan, and piercing blue eyes crowning an above-average physique. He considered her petite frame, brown eyes and long, chestnut hair with an appraising smile.

    Without a word she raised her gun, watching with satisfaction as his smile gave way to fear. In the moment after he began to protest, he recognised her, replacing his protests with pleas for mercy.

    She regarded him with pity as she saw the stain of urine appear on his pants. Seeing the change in her expression he stepped forward, but she raised the weapon and shot him. He fell back, clutching his chest with surprise etched on his face.

    She felt no remorse for her actions, firing again into the man who had killed her father. With a quiet sigh, she turned and left.

  3. Here’s my entry, Susan:

    The doorknob felt slick in Denise’s hand. Slick as the man behind the door’s thick wood, she thought. She eased the door open, slipped inside, closed it noiselessly behind her.
    Oh yeah, this was what she’d expected – big office, big windows behind an oversized desk. Probably mahogany. Probably cost three years’ worth of her salary. The man behind the desk seemed not to notice her. She took a few extra seconds to survey the room: the thick gray-hued carpet that had muffled her steps … shelves filled with all the books she’d seen in every other law office … a little conference table off to one side …
    No one else here. Denise had chosen her time carefully. The office staff off for lunch, no clients at this time of day. She stood, waiting.
    Savoring.
    The man finally sensed her presence – or deigned to acknowledge her. His head lifted from the papers littering the desktop, eyes meeting hers.
    Denise took tighter grip on her gun, raised it – savoring the way his gray eyes widened.
    Those eyes had barely noticed her fifteen years ago. Mister Bigshot Lawyer, so cool then. So detached.
    No detachment now. Denise had the man’s full attention.
    She felt the faintest of smiles twitch at her lips as she pulled the trigger.
    He came a little way out of his chair – reflex, Denise knew. A dead man whose brain hadn’t yet got the message. Her smile pulled wider at the look of complete … absolute … surprise on his face as he fell back into the chair.
    “Done,” she murmured. Payback …
    … to the man who’d murdered her father fifteen years ago.
    It felt even better than she’d imagined it would.

    • Great job, PL, though you went over the word limit! That’s okay, though, I’m going to change things up a bit since we had a low turn out. More to follow!

  4. Thanks to Angela, Bryden, and PL for participating. Rather than do a vote, like I had planned, I’m going to give all three of you a week where you may have one of your book covers up on the blog (linked to its Amazon product page). I’ll go in the order that you left comments, so Angela will be first. Then each Saturday I’ll change it to the next person. If Angela could be so kind as to email me with which book of hers she wants posted and a copy of the cover, I’ll have it up this afternoon/evening. Bryden and PL, if you could do the same sometime before its your turn, I’d appreciate it.

  5. Wow. Thank you so much… I only entered for a chuckle!

    Well done Angela, well done P.L.B… two worthy adversaries!

  6. Wow, Susan! Thanks! I totally enjoy writing to prompts.
    I will get info off to you probably Monday or Tuesday.
    Thanks again.

  7. There will be more secret contests like this in the future. All of you are welcome to participate as often as you want for more chances to get your cover up. I’ll go by how large the participation is as to how many participants win.

    Glad you all enjoy the prompts. I figured this was an easier one, but still good writing practice. Definitely some great entries by all of you!

    PL, I’ll look forward to your email. So long as it gets to me before your week, it is fine. Just don’t forget and make me track you down!

  8. Lol, “secret contests”? I agree with PL, these types of short writing prompts are fun. Plus it was fortunate I saw it on my day off. 😉

    I hope more people get into them later!

  9. Nice one Mistress! and… I really enjoyed reading the different interpretations… and… Great book cover, Angela! 🙂

  10. I figured the real challenge here was to keep the original words and use them in the correct order as given… I managed it after a lot of messing about.

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