First – a new contest in my Deals & Steals tab. I've got too many books, and would love to find new homes for them.
Next: I'm over at Beth Groundwater's blog today, responding to her interview questions, one of which requires I reveal something I've never posted anywhere else.
Note: today's post is based on the kind of reading and writing I do--often referred to as "commercial fiction" to distinguish it from "literary fiction." If you're reading or writing literary fiction, feel free to ignore my observations.
I struggle with descriptions. I don't like metaphors. Or similes. At least I don't like having to come up with good ones. And they have to be good, or they're a waste of time.
Things to watch for:
1. Use the vocabulary of your character, not yours.
Here's a snip from DANGER IN DEER RIDGE. Grinch has brought Elizabeth to his private place in the woods.
“I used to sit here and look at the sky. I knew someday I’d be a pilot.”
“Just the sky?” She swept her arm in a broad circle. “What about the way the water sparkles in the sunlight. And how the aspens dance when the breeze passes through their branches. It’s like the trees are wearing sequined evening gowns.”
He smiled. “I admit, I never conjured up that evening gown image. But yeah, this whole place is … serene, I guess.”
Now, Grinch was brought up in the country, became a pilot, and works for a covert ops team. If he'd been the one describing the scene using Elizabeth's words, would it have worked? I don't think so. (Obviously, because I wrote it with Elizabeth speaking them!)
2. Don't let them slow the pace.
Every time you compare something to something else, you're giving the reader two images to deal with. They have to stop and conjure up the new image, and no matter how good it is, you risk pulling them away from the read for the moment it takes to visualize your comparison.
3. Don't use other people to describe yours.
If your reader has no experience with whomever you're comparing your character to, you can pull them even farther away. Saying, "her lips reminded him of (insert movie star here) won't work at all if your reader hasn't seen or heard of XXX. And it can date your work to boot.
4. Don't overload your reader.
While a good metaphor can evoke an emotional reaction as well as a visual one, they need to be meted out sparingly. I recall the chapter I submitted to my crit partners after taking a workshop from Margie Lawson about how to create these emotion-packed metaphors. They both came back with "overkill!" in their feedback.
How about this one? Both my crit partners thought I'd gone to far, despite the fact that I labored long and hard to find a logical comparison for Ashley, who's a pastry chef. (And now you'll see the reason for today's blog image)
Her mind whirled like a mixer whipping egg whites into meringue.
How would you fix it? (Or do you think it works?)
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society