Proper and Perfect Mode of Description ~ Amanda Bradburn
Good morning and good day, Scribes!
It’s been a little while since I’ve taught, so I’ve had time to think and ponder upon what you need and what would be of most help. Luckily, today, I think, we’re going to catch both.
So, put on those knee-high boots, grab your sword or ray-gun, and let’s step into your world. Or more accurately, let’s step into one of mine.
Today, we’re going to dive into something I’m calling “The Proper and Perfect Mode of Description”. Ever wrote that scene where you meet characters, glance over a capital, or introduce that all-important piece of machinery, and suddenly all the sentences look the same? As if your magical sentence structure and all your friendly adjectives suddenly rebelled? And it suddenly doesn’t seem right or good or even… special anymore, just because of the way you wrote it?
Or how about this: Have you ever been reading a book, run through a long paragraph/page of description and suddenly you had no idea what you were looking at?
Both of these are problems. Today, we’re going to take a look at scenery descriptions and how you can make them sparkle!
*Portal zaps open*
Very well. If you’ll come with me.
We step out of our portal into a land that you’ve never seen before. Let’s construct a sample descriptive paragraph. This also depends on the character whose eyes we’re looking through. If you missed that lesson, run back and find it. There should be a dragon eating a mailbox in that one.
‘I heard the wind, far away, blowing through trees too small for me to see. Mountainous purple lumps rose from the mist like the backs of great sea whales, and great spouts of cloud hovered in the darkening sky. At the end of a rocky trail stood a tumbled-down, boulder-strewn castle.
The flowers at my feet curled their heads inward as the sun slipped behind the mountains. Though Mont Grailen was my nightly curse, legend commanded me to return.
And return I did.’
There. Now, ignore the story unfolding above and bolt your eyes onto the description. This paragraph is done in a broad-to-narrow or panoramic-to-detailed fashion. The character notices the wind, then the mountains, mist, clouds, castle. Those elements are progressively smaller. Yes, he does notice trees (hears them, really) and a trail. But overall, he notices the large things first. Now. Look at this sentence.
‘I noticed the flowers at my feet first, as I always did. They never changed, as my path remained the same. The flowers and I were both frozen in time. A trail led downward, twisting among boulders, to Mont Grailen.
Clouds hovered in the twilit sky, and the mountains beyond looked, as always, like surfacing purple whales. The mist provided their endless sea. Somewhere beyond, I could hear wind whistling through trees I could not see.’
Now the MC notices the flowers. He builds up from there, backward and methodically, until he comes to the wind.
Detail-oriented (or nearsighted!) people would probably notice the flowers first. People of action and movement might hear the wind and see the mountains.
Go find a scenery description in your book or your favorite book. Look at it. Study it, roll those prepositional phrases around in your brain. Then, rewrite it using the opposite technique of what’s already there.
And if it’s rather disorganized, organize it.
Post what you have here, and let us see what good work you’ve done!
May the magic of all good storytelling be yours!
Also: for those of you who miss the dragon, the next installment of The Proper and Perfect Mode of Description will feature none other than the SCRIBE DRAGON! *cheers*
~© 2011 by Author Amanda Bradburn; all rights reserved