Thursday, December 12, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Technical Flaws-Overwriting-Over-describing Characters or Setting
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: March 19, 2013
Description is necessary, but we must try not to use pages, or even paragraphs, to describe a single thing.
The glass, tall and slender with a small chip in the lip, tipped toward her, sending the frothy amber liquid over the bar in a narrow wave to her waiting lap.
Adding this much detail for an insignificant object serves no purpose other than to clutter the prose. Instead, use only the most necessary description to enable the reader to see what is happening. Give the reader something sensory to cling to and move into action.
The glass tipped, spilling the frothy amber liquid over the bar and into her lap.
This is better, although we must decide if we really need to explain to the reader what the beer looks like.
The glass tipped, sending the beer over the bar and into her lap.
This is okay, but we must consider, have we already told the reader it was beer in the glass? If in previous sentences, she ordered a beer, or even sipped the beer, we don’t even need that.
The glass tipped, sending its contents into her lap.
We’ve nixed “over the bar” as well, because the reader can safely assume that the beer didn’t spill under the bar. A reader imagines, much as the writer does. When detail descriptions of height, eye color, the phase of the moon, and the exact pitch of the drunk singing “Old MacDonald” on the stage, we ruin the reader’s enjoyment. Why? Because, part of the pleasure we find in reading is being able to form our own images. Providing too many details does all the work for the reader, leaving him bored and weighed down by all of the things she has to remember. Give a quick glimpse of a character or setting that reveals just enough to allow the reader to imagine the scene.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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