|image from here|
|allow your words to really whisk your readers' imaginations away|
1. show don't tell: the guy was hot vs. the temperature in the room rose twenty degrees when Bentley walked into the room (gag. NOT, Bentley is a hideous excuse for a man and nobody that jerky could EVER be hot, not even to girls who like bad boys #bachelorette)
2. use STRONG words, STRONG action words...did the 6 foot tall, built hottie really "walk" into the room? or did he strut? meander? slip into? swagger? parade?
3. compare: use similes and metaphors to help your reader understand what you're describing. use images that they will understand or will that help them get inside your character's head. help them understand your character's background w/o the heaping info dump!
ERRRRRTTT. i've come to a screeching halt. hope you were wearing your seatbelt. it's come to my abrupt realization this week that novice writers are REALLY GOOD at fine-tuning numero un et deux (1 and 2), but NUMBER 3 needs some work. NUMBER 3 is what separates the good writers from the phenomenal writers. (this is all completely and utterly my own opinion that i've held for all of 27 hours now. skip the next paragraph if you disagree.)
when reading unpublished works of my own, or those on online critique sites (from writers who are posting drafts of their first novels), there is something choppy about the writing. the story is there. the writing is clean. description is there. BUT. there's something missing. the flow. the passion. the depth. advanced IMAGERY. synonyms and metaphors. BUT. not cliche comparisons. nuh uh. don't do that.
WRITERS, LET YOUR HAIR DOWN. dig deep within your souls and hearts and let out the inner poets. NO. i'm NOT a poet. not by a long shot. BUT. it's the unique comparisons in your descriptions that will GRAB your reader and reel them in and mesmerize them and hypnotize them into turning every last page and longing for more words written by YOU with a feverish, desperate need so near panic that they will stalk you on your blog and twitter and email and beg you to write more, more, more!
don't use similes and metaphors one on top of another. that will spit your reader OUTA the story super speedy quick.
4. describe more than just physical characteristics. yes, readers like to know what the setting looks like and what the characters look like and strong size and color words are very nice and helpful. BUT. sound. taste. smell. emotion. spend time on the parts the reader can't already imagine for themselves. readers know people and parks and houses. they don't know what your character gets out of those people and those places. when your protag meet a new person (character) what do they think about them/feel about them? what is going on around them? place your reader in the scene. in your protag. (when you meet someone, are you ONLY thinking about their height and eye color? are you in a white, soundless room? or do you have many sensory things going on all at once?)
this is another novice mistake. sight is described in detail. the other senses are ignored. what smells elicit certain emotions in the character? what sounds are familiar to them? when a strange sound occurs, what does that mean for the story? (notice, i'm NOT saying to just list sensory descriptions. leave them out unless they are meaningful to the character and the story.)
5. make your setting about more than just your setting. make it about emotion. if your character is feeling jealous, how can you make the setting's description add to that? does the smoky atmosphere look a little green? do all the women in the crowd look a little more competetive and vicious than the night before when all was peachy? is the music blaring a beat that sounds like a racing heart about to speed away from all the tension?
okay. i'll fess up. this post was inspired by the novels i read this week. i started reading city of bones by cassandre clare and started and finished the sky is everywhere by jandy nelson. the comparisons, imho, were amazing. fresh and unique. then i read my manuscript and realized why it was a little flat.
NOW. i brought this up to a writer friend of mine who feels that similes and metaphors are easier to use in third person and not first BECAUSE one has to stick with the voice of the protag. DO YOU AGREE? CAN any protag "think"/narrate using similies and metaphors? or does the protag have to be literary and highly intelligent to do so? (my words, not my friend's)
i think it can be done.
by any character.
and here's why. i think the "things" the protag compares emotions and physical descriptions and smells and sounds to can add to his/her voice. just think of how fun it can be to write that! how would a loner who loves to play the guitar describe a loud, crowded restaurant? how would a frivolous, hyper girl with her best friend describe the same scene? what would each compare it to?
the act of comparing to create imagery doesn't have to define the character, but it can define your writing style. what/how the protag narrates and what he/she compares descriptions to will define your character...and on a much deeper level than if you don't use this form of imagery!
now. take your post-it notes or napkins and a pen with you wherever you go and jot down comparisons. try to get some for each of your senses. including emotion. how many similes or metaphors can you come up with by the time you go to bed tonight?
yes. i'm a teacher and i now assign homework on my blog. chop chop writers!
(this is christy. if you're now scared of my blog posts, you can still come around for erica's....)
i was totally going to provide examples from the two AMAZING books i read, but i've babbled on for way to long at this point and fear i may have lost 75 percent of you.
(i'm not kidding about the homework btw. so if you skipped down to this point, you may have to go back up and reread.)