Under and over the descriptions we go

Describing things is tricky, too much and it’s boring, too little and it’s boring. Both for opposite reasons, yet they get the same result… boring. As a writer I know I’m capable of much better.

Common scenarios in books like sunsets, the ocean view, a busy city street can easily become under or dramatically over described. The problem is they are common so most people know what a sunset looks like so chances are, no matter how well it’s describe or poorly, the reader is envisioning what they have personally experienced. Unless there is something remarkable, totally uncommon or has never happened before I try not to patronize the reader.

In her apartment after dinner, Amber sat and watched the sunset over the city drinking a cup of tea. The beautiful colours reflecting on the clouds in the sky.

While accurate it’s boring…
Here’s a little overkill example, while not horrible it is a smidge tedious:

In her apartment after diner, Amber sat deftly on her couch. She carefully pulled up her feet beneath her and she snuggled into the soft comfortable cornflower blue fabric. Holding her hot cup of chamomile tea between her chilled hands, she inhaled the sweet calming aroma deeply. She watched eagerly as the scorching sun began to descend ever so slowly toward the horizon. It cast the hues of soft sunburst orange, delicate summer peaches and fluffy cotton candy pinks upon the once white clouds that dotted the crisp blue summer sky.

While I’m a fan of describing colour, for something so commonly seen it can be a bit campy.  This is what I might write now that I’ve had time to learn the value of words. It’s not always about the shortest sentence or the most described.

Amber tucked her feet beneath her as she settled onto her comfortable cornflower blue couch. She held the warm mug inhaling the calming aroma of chamomile, her favorite after diner tea. Smiling, she watched the cascading colours of orange, peach and pink play and shift on the clouds.

Sooo, one if it’s her couch its in her home. I’ve mentioned before she has an apartment, so saying again is overkill. Announcing its after diner is brash IMO so I slipped it in to a better position. it’s also after diner and she’s watching the sunset. While I love a good sunset, I’m not particularity fond of reading long passages about them. I get it, it’s awesome and guess what? I’m not imagining what’s written I’m probably envisioning the last pretty sunset I saw.

It’s a fine balance of making the words and sentences count. Sometimes when I’m on a roll and just need to get the writing down so I don’t forget clever dialogue or the scene I’ll skimp on my word selections. I’m not in denial or delusional I know I sometimes I get too wordy and need to dial it back. The thing is I try to remind myself to show the scene and not tell it or list it off like a shopping list.

My advice about too little and too much description.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Read it out loud. If you get bored reading it out loud or you gasp for breath to get through (Dramatic I know) chances are you can simplify and beautify the sentence or paragraph by rearranging a word or two… or twenty.


Other wordy posts

It’s really very unnecessary

Redundantly Redundant Redundancies

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13 thoughts on “Under and over the descriptions we go

  1. Interesting post highlighting many different ways of writing. I feel like a problem commonly encountered by new writers is that adjectives shouldn’t be jumbled up with lots of adverbs. Deeply, deftly, weakly, sadly, etc, etc, only work to further confuse the writing. I love adjectives, and I love adverbs, like someone loves any kind of word, but together, and too many, they can become really awful.


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