Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Description- vs. Action-oriented Plots (also, Hurry up, Spring!)

First, I would just like to lodge a complaint with the weather gods: you couldn't be bothered to give us a white Christmas this year, and now you're cruelly jerking us around with two days of blissfully mild, sunny weather, only to plunge us back into sleet, gray skies, and freezing temperatures. Not fair. JUST SEND SPRING ALREADY.

/end complaint.

The WIP continues to chug along slowly, much like a steam engine but one with a really bad head cold (in other words, slowly and lethargically). The quarter's schoolwork has picked up steam, as have work at the store and at the newspaper. Finding time to write has become as hard as finding the Fountain of Youth--I've heard it exists, but have yet to see it myself.

As a result, when I DO have time to write, I'm noticing that it's getting increasingly spare. Sentences are shorter, more to the point. Dialogue has basically disappeared but for the stuff essential to moving things along. And action--holy cow my characters are flying from one action-packed moment to the next, with no time to sleep, eat, or even breathe in between.

If it sounds awful, trust me, it is.

I've never been one for heavy description. It's one of the few things that drove me nuts about Tolkien (and I love Tolkien) and other writers like him. A certain amount of description is needed, obviously, to anchor your characters in a time and place, but pages and pages devoted to the exact shade of the sky, the shimmering beauty of a river, is overkill, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I suffer the opposite, especially now: my descriptions are complete MIA.

I can visualize my setting perfectly in my head, as vivid as if I was standing in it with my characters, but for some reason that's not translating well onto the page beyond a cursory "rock wall" or "dense foliage". Well, what kind of foliage? Are we talking rainforest dense or Black Forest of Germany dense? THERE IS A DIFFERENCE, KATHERINE.

(For the record, it's "Black Forest of Germany" dense.)

Part of this, I know, is a time thing. I have almost none, so when I do steal a few minutes I'm slamming down as much as I can to actually get the plot, the story arc, on paper. Descriptions can come later! I tell myself, as I ALWAYS tell myself.

But of course, the descriptions never come "later". I only have to look at my draft from over the summer to see how very sparse it is in terms of world-building. And that story was set in a place that really does exist!

So how to inject more color and texture to a story, particularly when a. you're not very good at it and b. you suffer a time crunch? This is something I do genuinely wonder. Is description something best left for the rewriting/editing process? Or am I just going to have to resign myself to getting less 'plot' down per writing session, but a more complete world in the first draft?

Dilemma dilemma.


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