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Tricks for Writing DESCRIPTION Options · View
MorganHawke
Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:05:19 AM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 345
Location: The suburbs.
Tricks for Writing DESCRIPTION

------------- Original Message -----------
“I think the biggest problem I have is lack of detail. I can see things in my head, but other than the general surroundings, I'm always too intent on what my characters are thinking, or doing, or about to do to remember to add the details necessary to paint a really clear picture of where they are and their environment.” -- Wanna Rite Reel Gud

The way to deal with that is by writing what you can. When you’re done, go back and put in all the rest. Also, in situations like this, a beta-reader is your best bet at seeing where you skipped something.

As for What to describe and How Much to describe…

Getting the IMAGE on Paper

Avoid Simple Nouns:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Use a Specific Noun rather than a simple and vague noun to automatically pop in description.

Instead of: the door, the car, the tree, the house, the sword, the robe, the hat...

Write: the French doors, the Subaru, the oak, the Victorian cottage, the claymore, the yukata, the fedora...

Adjectives are your Friend!

Adjectives give your objects and locations emotional flavor and impact. The trick is not to over-do it! Moderation - moderation - moderation.

One adjective per Noun:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ADD an Adjective to a specific Noun. The ornate French tapestry, the rusty Subaru, the quaint Victorian cottage, the gleaming claymore, the blood-stained yukata, the gray fedora.

Two adjectives per Sensation:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sight, Sound, Taste, Texture, Scent - are all perceived through the senses. The glaringly red French doors, the seductively throbbing jazz, the creamy bite of yogurt, the nubby white dishcloth, the pungent musk of wet dog.

------------- Original Message -----------
"...I think that particularly striking or important items deserve a few sentences to sketch them in and give the appropriate details. Still, for many scenes, most readers have enough 'stock imagery' in their memories to supply a working interpretation. They will garb members of a corporate meeting in dark suits, give soldiers rifles or spears depending on the era and place, and so on." -- Literature Aficionado

Absolutely! Using a direct noun with only one or two adjectives can create an entire image.

Members of a corporate meeting:
- His shimmering black Armani suit
- Her expensively tailored scarlet Kaspar suit

Soldiers
- The red-coated British soldier
- The Roman centurion
- The woad-painted Celtic warrior
- The Viking

Buildings
- The gleaming steel and glass skyscraper
- The run-down Victorian mansion
- The towering Chinese pagoda
- the rustic Japanese sukiya cottage

The Not-So Dreaded -ly and –ing Words:

Every once in a while you will hear someone whine that you shouldn't use words that end in –ly or -ing. The "No -ly or –ing words!" whiners are usually the same people that say: "Don't use Adjectives!"

The "No -ly or –ing Words" rule DOES NOT APPLY to Fiction!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This rule comes from Basic School Grammar - grammar that was intended for NON-Fiction, such as reports, essays, and other boring, description-less, education-related, or business-related writing that doesn’t require description. Fiction THRIVES on description.

Think people, how the heck are you supposed to describe something without adjectives? You CAN'T.

Still Feeling Guilty?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you can find another word that says the same thing without ending in -ly, use it. If you can't, then use what you have.

Making the Reader FEEL the Passion -- Make the prose PURPLE!

Sensually-Descriptive words are the key to Passionate and Romantic fiction. If it implies a Sense, sound, taste, sight, texture, scent…, you're halfway there!

So, where do you get those passionate words? From Trained Professionals: Other Writers. I pulled out my favorite trashy novels and hunted down phrases that really caught my attention and then I made a list of all the PRETTY words.

salacious humor
carnal gratification
languorous bliss
shrieking culmination
disconcerting stimulation
brutal carnal rapture
exquisite torment
lustful cravings
irresolute yearning
skittish laughter

(It’s Not plagiarism unless you are copying whole paragraphs word for word.)

I also dug through my thesaurus and made another list of all the adjectives I use over and over and over...

Assault
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
attack, advancing, aggressive, assailing, charging, incursion, inundated, invasion, offensive, onset, onslaught, overwhelmed, ruinous, tempestuous, strike, violation,

Beautiful
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
admirable, alluring, angelic, appealing, bewitching, charming, dazzling, delicate, delightful, divine, elegant, enticing, exquisite, fascinating, gorgeous, graceful, grand, magnificent, marvelous, pleasing, radiant, ravishing, resplendent, splendid, stunning, sublime,

Dangerous
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
alarming, critical, fatal, formidable, impending, malignant, menacing, mortal, nasty, perilous, precarious, pressing, serious, terrible, threatening, treacherous, urgent, vulnerable, wicked,

Painful
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
aching, agonizing, arduous, awful, biting, burning, caustic, dire, distressing, dreadful, excruciating, extreme, grievous, inflamed, piercing, raw, sensitive, severe, sharp, tender, terrible, throbbing, tormenting,

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Looking for a Quick List for commonly used words in Erotica?
The Erotic Thesaurus - http://www.darkerotica.net/EroticThesaurus.html

Looking for a Quick List to describe Emotions and Body Language?
The Non-Verbal Thesaurus - http://darkerotica.blogspot.com/2006/02/non-verbal-thesaurus.html

------------- Original Message -----------
"I'm surprised the purple prose avocation didn't have people up in arms. That's normally frowned upon here, but I think there's a difference between bad/overly done purple prose and vivid description." -- Fan-fiction Writer

I think the main problem with purple prose is when it goes on to the point of being ridiculous. Purple prose is a lot like candy. Too much and it will make you sick to your stomach. Used in tiny amounts, a word here or there, can add emotional punch to an otherwise clinically dry scene.

How & When to Describe It:

Rule of Thumb #1:
-- The moment the Viewpoint Character notices it -- DESCRIBE IT!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Picture the scene in your head like a movie. If it shows up in your scene - it belongs on the page.

Rule of Thumb #2:
-- Description should always reflect the OPINION of the Viewpoint Character.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oscar the Grouch is not going to see - or describe - a field of roses the same way as Big Bird. Darth Vader's opinion (and description,) of Yoda is not going to resemble Luke Skywalker's. The Heroine is NOT going to describe the Villain the same way she would her Hero.

Rule of Thumb #3
- Limit your detailed descriptions to stuff that MATTERS.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
How do you tell what's relevant & what's not? How IMPORTANT is it to the story? Will this object/setting/character matter later?

* If it's Important, then describe it in loving detail.
* If it's only incidental, than only the tiniest sketch is needed.

Note: Fantasy Characters should get the opportunity to show off the full extent of their powers at least once because those powers are what make that character who they are.

Rule of Thumb #4
- Moderation! Moderation! Moderation!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Once you have described a setting or a person thoroughly, you don’t need to Keep Describing them -- unless they change. A small clue here and there, such as keeping to specific nouns, will do.

WHAT to Describe:

Scenery
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Every new scene should open with a snapshot of description that details the stage the action is about to happen in.

No more than 60 words max. If you need more than that to describe your setting - splice it into your Action.

Location Changes
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Every time the scenery changes: every new room, every new view, every new place they arrive at - gets described; so the reader can see it, and experience it too.

Locations get 30 words max, because that's about how much the average person can catch in a single look. The rest of the details should be mixed in between the actions and dialogue as the character gets a better look around.

Note: Fantasy and Sci-Fi Require MORE description.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In most sci-fi's and fantasies, the otherworldly SETTING is just as important as the characters because the differences between Fantasy & Reality actually affect the plot -- such as things that are possible in a Fantasy setting, but aren't in the normal world, and vice versa.

If your story is based in the normal world, and only the characters are fantastic, then the setting only matters in their immediate location and how it affects them directly. For example, rain has more of an immediate effect on characters than would sunshine - unless they're a vampire.

The snapshot at the beginning of every scene is still the same length (60 words) - but you have to continue to add more description as the characters move through the world.

------------- Original Message -----------
"It's also a good idea to visit a place that is similar to the scene of the happenings; if you can of course. You can't well describe something you don't have an idea of." -- Word Scholar

Nothing can replace first-hand experience for describing something, but one should never underestimate the power of the Internet.

Just about any place in the world is available for your viewing pleasure from photographs and interactive panoramas to maps and floor plans. Journal blogs written by travelers can also be a really good resource for those writing about places they have never experienced.

No one resource will ever cover it all, but then that's what browsers such as Google.com are for.

People
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Think of how you see characters in a movie. THAT'S how you describe the people your character sees. Start at the top and describe down. Bottom to Top description implies that the Body is more important than the Mind. It implies that the person being viewed is an OBJECT, their feelings are of no consequence to the viewer.

People get three whole sentences max. If you need more than three sentences, thread the rest in with the dialogue.

------------- Original Message -----------
"While it may be convenient and easy to describe someone from head to toe every time, it gets dull after the second or third such 'shot'..." -- Literature Aficionado

No argument there. However, it's a good idea to describe the characters and their settings at least ONCE, preferably when the POV character first lays eyes on them. After that, only tiny reminders are needed.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Describing the Viewpoint Character - Yes or No?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

YES! YES! YES! I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a story, I wanna know whose head I'm in -- as soon as I'm in that head! And I want to know what that person LOOKS LIKE! (Damn it...)

NEVER assume that the person reading your story is familiar with the fandom! For example, I would have never bought and read the ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’ manga series if I hadn’t read some rather compelling fan-fiction.

------------- Original Message -----------
"...I'd like to emphasize that you wrote "viewpoint character" since that's different than when the thing or person is first introduced." -- Fan-fiction Writer

Actually it SHOULDN'T be. The only one who should be noticing anything and have an opinion on what is being viewed should be the viewpoint character - unless you are using an omniscient POV, the Camera's Eye viewpoint. When using the Camera's Eye viewpoint, those descriptions should be very cut and dried with no emotional impact at all, strictly, "this is here, they are there".

The "story-teller/ fairy-tale" style of writing is completely different. In this style the story-teller is a character too, such as in the Lemony Snicket books.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Describing the Viewpoint Character is Tricky - Literally.
You have to use tricks to do it.

The simplest way to describe the POV character is by having them see their reflection, (which, is also why it’s the most commonly ABUSED technique.) The other way is by having the character ‘notice’ themselves, one little action at a time. This works best when the character is highly opinionated about their appearance.

The trick I prefer to use is threading the Description into the character's Actions. Using their Actions brings other parts of the character into focus, rather than describe the character in one lump paragraph.

Example:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The frantic thumping and grunting in the executive office was getting louder.

Penelope scowled. Sitting at her desk less than three feet from the closed door, she couldn’t avoid hearing the sounds of the occupants’…personal enjoyment, loud and clear.

Not that they were bothering to be quiet about it.

As usual on Friday and only an hour before it was time to leave, her tall, dark, and handsome boss was banging yet another tall, dark, and statuesque visiting executive on his desk like there was no tomorrow – while she played door guard. Not that anyone wouldn’t know what was going on from the sounds alone.

Very nearly growling in annoyance, she pulled out the slender bone chopsticks holding her pale blond hair in its French twist, then reached into her pink clutch purse for the small brush. What did he see in that…woman? Or rather, what didn’t he see in her? Deliberately not looking at her boss's door, she viciously brushed out then coiled her long pale blonde mane back into its tight, neat twist.

What the hell was wrong with her?

Penelope jammed the pale bone chop-sticks back into the excruciatingly neat blond coil then dropped her brush back into her pink clutch purse, and snapped it closed. Nothing, so far as she could tell. She was pretty. She was sweet. Prettier and sweeter than that…vamp he had on his desk. She didn't need half the make-up that...woman used.

So why couldn't she catch his interest?

She was everything an elite executive assistant should be. She was organized, efficient, and reliable. She was always on time and ready to be of assistance. She kept a pleasant smile on her face at all times with plenty of lip-gloss. She maintained a professional and lady-like appearance with extremely tailored shell pink and cream business suits that were always neat and tidy.

All that effort and...her handsome boss barely noticed her. Not even a second glance to notice that she wore lace-top stockings rather than pantyhose. He saw every other female that breathed, but not her.

The only time he did notice her was when he needed her to fetch an expensive gift for one of his paramours, or guard his door so he could bang yet another female on his desk.

She crumpled the scrawled notations she was supposed to be entering into his itinerary. It was so damned -- unfair!

The moaning in his office reached a crescendo.

She kicked the leg of her desk. The desk made a hollow bang and slammed against the wall with a nice solid thunk. Stupid boss.

“Oh, baby, I’m right there!” Her boss’s voice was husky and loud. “Let me cum on your tits. Yeah, that’s it. Fuck! I’m cumming, ah…fuck! I’m cumming!”

Just what she didn’t need to hear only an hour before her long empty weekend started.

Penelope snatched her purse from her desk, got up, and shrugged into her pale pink suit jacket. Screw them. They could deal with whoever walked in on them on their own.

She walked toward the elevator, not even bothering to make her strides a lady-like mince. Yeah, she was leaving an hour early, but she was a good girl, she never did anything wrong. Her boss would just assume she had an appointment that he’d forgotten about.

She ground her teeth. He’d forget his head if it wasn’t attached.

She got into the elevator and hit the button before anyone else could get on. In perfect privacy, she indulged in a small bit of refreshingly loud wall kicking.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
From: Bad Girl

DESCRIPTION ~ NOT just for pretty Pictures.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
WARNING! ~ Missing descriptive cues can cause: Author Angst!

Once upon a time, when I was a beginning writer of Smut, I wrote a kick ass, "World of Grim Darkness" werewolf erotica story. I had a right to think the story kicked ass. I got a lot of letters telling me so.

And then, one day, I got a lovely letter gushing on how much they liked my story. It was so funny! They went into detail explaining exactly how pleased they were and how witty my story was in so many places - but I hadn't ended it right. Where was the punch line?

The PUNCH LINE?!

Yes, fellow writers, my serious "World of Grim Darkness" werewolf erotica had been completely misinterpreted - as an erotic Comedy!

Talk about your total author disillusionment.

This misinterpretation happened because I had written strong sarcastic dialogue, (a trademark in all my stories,) but I had left too many other cues out. It was not apparent at all, to this reader that my characters were speaking sarcastically - counter to their true feelings.

In short, I didn't have enough of the POV character's feelings displayed through inner dialogue or body-language cues for the reader to pick up what I was really trying to show. Sigh… And that's how I learned the most important rule of fiction:

What CAN be Misinterpreted WILL be Misinterpreted.


According to my current fan letters, I DON'T make that mistake any more.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DESCRIPTION - The Only way to get your vision across to the Reader.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
DISCLAIMER: As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

nicola
Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:38:13 AM

Rank: Matriarch
Moderator

Joined: 12/6/2006
Posts: 27,612
Welcome to the site Morgan.

Thank you for posting. I have referred people to your blog in the past, stickied in this section. You offer some excellent tips icon_smile http://www.lushstories.com/forum/yaf_postst48_How-to-write-Erotica--Sex-Fiction.aspx

We have removed the option for people with less than 20 posts to include links (anti-spam measure), however if you'd like to forward them to me, I can post them. Or you could head into the word games section for 2 minutes and get your post count up to 20!

MorganHawke
Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:49:20 AM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 345
Location: The suburbs.
Hi Nicola, thank you for the warm welcome!

nicola wrote:

Thank you for posting. I have referred people to your blog in the past, stickied in this section. You offer some excellent tips icon_smile


So I saw! I wasn't even sure it was mine until I clicked it. I'm deeply honored.

nicola wrote:
We have removed the option for people with less than 20 posts to include links (anti-spam measure), however if you'd like to forward them to me, I can post them.


I'll do that! Both are writing links to help with Description. Thank you so much!

nicola wrote:
Or you could head into the word games section for 2 minutes and get your post count up to 20!


Now there's an idea!



Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

nicola
Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:22:00 PM

Rank: Matriarch
Moderator

Joined: 12/6/2006
Posts: 27,612
The Erotic Thesaurus - http://www.darkerotica.net/EroticThesaurus.html
A Quick List for commonly used (clean) words in Erotica.

The Non-Verbal Thesaurus - http://darkerotica.blogspot.com/2006/02/non-verbal-thesaurus.html
A Quick List to describe Emotions and Body Language.

Thank you Morgan.

I think you may need 21 posts and the filter is removed.
MorganHawke
Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2011 2:04:59 PM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 345
Location: The suburbs.
nicola wrote:
I think you may need 21 posts and the filter is removed.


Perfect timing. This is post 22!

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

sprite
Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 11:04:56 PM

Rank: Her Royal Spriteness
Moderator

Joined: 6/18/2010
Posts: 20,282
Location: My Tower, Spain
This is really great advice! thank you for sharing it. Despription is my weak point, my own opinion, but i fairly confident of it. i think i need to take this to heart and see if i can change that. i'll let you know how that works for me. :)



Love not hate.
MorganHawke
Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2011 12:38:48 AM

Rank: First Person Smartass

Joined: 2/8/2011
Posts: 345
Location: The suburbs.
sprite wrote:
This is really great advice! thank you for sharing it. Despription is my weak point, my own opinion, but i fairly confident of it. i think i need to take this to heart and see if i can change that. i'll let you know how that works for me. :)


I'm glad you liked the essay!
-- I'd love to hear your comments on the results.

Morgan Hawke
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Purveyor of fine Smut.
DarkErotica.Net ~ My Website
DarkErotica Blog ~ My Writers' blog

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
Albert Einstein

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