Friday, April 11, 2008

Sniffing, Tasting, Seeing, Hearing, Action

McClanahan has some good stuff in this book. The editors picked a good person to write about description, let me tell you. Frankly, I think this has been the most helpful thing I've ever dealt with when it comes to writing description. Everyone else is too vague. "Show don't tell." "Use personal experience." "Oh, and did I mention show, don't tell?"

I hate that phrase. Mostly because whenever I heard it, no one explained it. I only had a fuzzy idea of what it meant and what people expected from it. Reading McClanahan's book, on the other hand, has been a real treat. The end of every chapter is filled with exercises for practice, and even within chapters she mentions a few things worth trying out.

What's more, she doesn't just talk about describing setting, which is what most people tend to think when it comes to description. She goes into characters, their actions, their objects. She mentions the other senses aside from just seeing - something everyone wants to do (and mentions) when a person or place pops up. "I don't know what so-and-so looks like. Can you describe him?" She has all sorts of little tricks up her sleeve I wouldn't have ever thought about. What's on your character's grocery list? If your character were to go on a trip, what would he/she/it pack?

Ever since reading McClanahan's book (and I'm not quite done yet), I've snorted spices (ok, not literally, but for some scent description training) and eaten a few, thought a some descriptions of my characters (like how I should mention Ballard has a climber's body, something that's become even more important since one of my crit partners thought Ballard was an old guy), picked at some of their actions, looked for more specific words than before so I can go for "the proper naming of a thing," and so forth.

I have a lot of rewriting to do yet, but I think the second time around things will be much better.

Currently: It's early, but I'm awake and feelin' good.

1 comment:

annesible said...

Hey, glad you're getting some good out of Word Painting.