Description brings writing to life. That boy over there is really good-looking. This sentence does not describe any information about the boy only gives a value judgment. Some writing spends much time in minute details of a face, or laundry lists of clothing worn by the character. A much more vivid approach is to show personality traits and how they make the character behave or react. For instance a woman who brushes her fingers through her hair – perhaps in response to stress, or maybe in times of excitement is more present than one with a round face and oval eyes.
When it comes to places and things be as concrete as possible without lengthy elaboration. It is not as easy as it sounds. A shovel can be called by a different name such as a spade but that still doesn’t say what kind it is. Perhaps the metal is shiny– no scratches would tend to say it has never been used. On the other hand if it is covered with clumps of dried mud it gives us some information about the user. For instance, the owner who always maintains his tools meticulously, and finding it thus, knows someone used it without permission and in a rush.
I read an interview of Rachel Rager recently. She uses similar methods for writing to mine. “I always write on the computer. However, I have notebooks everywhere – the car, my purse, my bedroom – I just never know when an idea will strike and if I don’t write it down then I forget. I have often written several pages of notes or even entire scenes on paper but then I put them in the computer when I get the chance.” Under the heading of Brainstorming Virginia Hamilton says: “Carry a notebook with you at all times. That way you’ll never miss an important moment.”
By making notes when the observations or ideas occur you have a war chest of material to use later when you need to depict a setting, express emotions, or portray characters actions. I use anything available from church programs, old receipts, a napkin, or the margins of a book I am reading. Once I’ve written it down, I may or may not need to reference it, but the act of putting it on paper had inscribed it on my mind for future reference.
Short annotations are wonderful. They act as a spring board for later clarification or modification.
Worn vinyl seats, color faded and material cracked. Leaves it open for long use, or abuse.
Crunchy floor. Offers the possibility of a dark space that has skeletal remains, or an eating establishment with peanut shells strewn around.
The stench of old grease. That can be outside a fast food establishment, or inside a mechanics garage.
Have fun keeping a journal of little tidbits for later use and happy writing in 2010.