"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."- Truman Capote
Get out your paintbrushes because we are going to dive into the art of description!
Everything is made up of the prime colors: magenta (red), cyan (blue), and yellow (yes, yellow is just boring old yellow). The art of description is made up of three main questions:
- Is it necessary? (Red)
- Is it too long or too short? (Blue)
- How is it formulated? (Yellow)
Red: Is your description contributing to your story? Is it necessary?
My rule of thumb is, if you can picture whatever it is and it doesn't contribute to the plot, the description is probably good at the bare minimum.
For example, if you are writing about a couple thieves escaping capture through a forest, the forest doesn't contribute much to the plot and everybody knows what a forest looks like. In that case, you don't really need to describe it. However, if you were writing about a couple of thieves who escape capture by hiding in a forest and accidentally discover a hidden treasure, then the forest does play a role in the plot. Thus, it bares describing.
One of my pet peeves is when I'm trying to read a fanfiction of a fandom I don't know and I can't picture the characters or understand them. Description wise as well as content, there should be enough so that someone (like me) who doesn't know that particular fandom can still read and enjoy your fanfiction.
Blue: Is your description too long or too short?
You don't want gigantic paragraphs of description ruining your flow, nor do you want people getting bored because the can't imagine it. It's not always easy to pick up on so here are some examples:
1) Jane Upton was preparing for the opera that night. She was dressed in a black silk gown with tiny, almost invisible sequins. Over that, she wore a beaded grey shift made out of beads and meshing which flowed elegantly over the dress, giving it a gorgeous two-tone appearance. She turned to the mirror and applied dark red, almost black lipstick and put on mascara. Then, she turned to the sofa from her mother of pearl boudoir and picked up her fur coat. It was made out of white ermine fur and was as soft as sin. She wrapped it around her and clasped it shut and the throat with an emerald. Finally, she put on her favorite green sparkly heels, which glittered all over with small carved emeralds and stepped out the door into the street.
2) Jane Upton was preparing for the opera. She put on a sparkly black dress, and heels, then wrapped a fur coat around her. Once that was done, she applied some lipstick and stepped out the door.
3) Jane Upton was preparing for the opera. She got dressed and left.
Which example do you like the best? The second one right? The first is an ideal example of WAY too much description. If I had to try and read a book like that, I would go to sleep. The third example is boring. There isn't any description at all. The second one has just enough but not too much.
Yellow: How is your description formulated?
For this question, I have an acronym: LIAR!!! Nope, I'm not calling you a liar! XD Here, I'll explain:
L – Logical:
Does your description fit where you put in your paragraph? Does it make sense to have it at all? (view Red)
I – In Order:
If you are describing clothing, for example, describe going from head to toe or toe to head (I don't care which! :D). That way, your readers don't get lost. The same applies to landscapes etc....
A – Avoid Using The Verb 'To Be':
This is another one of my pet peeves. I absolutely detest hitting a paragraph of description where the only verb is 'is/was'! It doesn't flow nicely, it's boring and it doesn't help your description at all. Try using some other verbs like appeared, flowed, wrapped, glinted or rustled. They are more descriptive and a whole lot more fun to read!
R – Run Smoothly:
Make sure that whatever description your writing flows smoothly. You don't want something chopped up like: 'The dress was blue. There was lace on it. The lace was around the collar.'. It just doesn't sound right, does it? Let's try fixing that example: 'The dress was blue and detailed with small portions of lace around the collar.' Much better, no?
There, now you have the paint and not just the paintbrushes. With this (the paint), I hope you'll be able to paint (write) yourself a beautiful descriptive fanfiction!!!
What is your favourite thing to describe? And what kind of description do you like to read the most?
YOU ARE READING
How to Write FanfictionNon-Fiction
How to Write Fanfiction is a writing resource that contains tips and tricks on crafting fanfiction stories - by the community, for the community. This guide will serve as a helpful point of reference for fanfiction writers both old and new. We ultim...