My critique partners usually point out where they’d like to see some description. I wonder why I can’t spot those places myself. Probably because I’m guilty of skipping that stuff in the books I read, though I do like it in movies. Like when Pelican Brief (the movie) opens, and the camera pans the waterways of Louisiana, the swamps, and brown pelicans fly across the sky.
Do you know any published authors whose setting and description are so sparse it’s jarring? I’d like to read them just to see what I think.
I’ve been reading through the journals my father-in-law kept. He didn’t right lengthy passages. He wrote things like:
Woke up and ate oatmeal. Read Chapter 14 in Jeremiah. Went to Sears to find a part for lawnmower. Walked with neighbor--two miles. Went to church tonight to hear missionary from India speak.
I was surprised to learn I wanted more. Was the oatmeal lumpy or too milky? Did he nuke it or cook it on the stove? What did he learn from Jeremiah 14--Any insight? What was the missionary’s name? How was he dressed? How many people were there? Was the church full? What was learned?My mother-in-law left behind her life story--condensed to about twelve single-spaced pages. She jabbed the facts to paper like someone throwing darts at a board.
“When the John Doe’s were going to the Ivory Coast in Africa, we got cans and a sealer and met at her house out by LeTourneau and canned all of her cake mixes, etc.”
That’s it. We don’t know John Doe’s wife’s name, what kind of cans, what kind of sealer or anything about the procedure. I think details would be interesting, don’t you?Funny how reading through my in-laws’ memories have given me a new respect for writers who incorporate (and have mastered) description and setting.
How do you approach description? Does it make your first draft or do you layer it in when you rewrite? Could your story take place anywhere or does your setting actually mean something? Is description second nature to you? I wish!Teach me something about description and setting. I want to be a fan.