Tag Archive - Description

Description Errors That Result from POV Limitations

It’s important for writers to convey the description of setting and characters through the POV character’s eyes and emotions. But just as we don’t take notice of every single detail in a room or about a person we encounter (I think our brains would explode!), our characters are going to notice particular things, and that’s determined by their personality and mood at the moment.

For example, if a beautiful woman wearing provocative clothing walks into a diner, a young man is going to notice different things about her than, say, a five-year-old child would. He’s going to think different things as well, and it’s likely that, if you put ten men in that diner, you could have each think very different thoughts about that woman because of who he is. An old priest will think different thoughts than a twenty-something bad boy. The priest might notice how tarnished and unhappy the woman seems. The young man may only be checking out her curves and the hemline of her dress.

Scenes are going to feel deficient if description is dumped outside of POV.

But there are also other problems that can occur because of POV, and they stem from what happens when a writer forgets where his character is placed in his scene. Continue Reading…

A Look at Masterful Setting Description

Masterful writing must seep into every corner of a novel. We looked briefly at the description of characters in the last few posts, mostly drawing from just one novel of James Lee Burke’s. I could easily write a year’s posts highlighting masterful writing from any one of his novels. And in the series, I’ll be pulling more examples from his books.

When we talk about description, we’re covering wide territory. Narrative is, essentially, description, and via narrative we describe characters, setting, situations, and insights.

As we saw in those examples from Burke’s novel Wayfaring Stranger, description limited to merely physical components only goes so far to shine a light on the POV character’s personality. Every bit of narrative description needs to be purposeful in order to be masterful.

Yes, what a character notices about another’s hairstyle or clothing can bring out the POV character’s tastes and opinions, but there is so much more that great description can accomplish, and few writers think carefully about how to wield description in a powerful way.

When description is discussed, usually character and setting are the two most obvious novel components of concern. Every time your POV character moves into a new space—walks out a door into the outdoors, enters a building—some description is needed. Continue Reading…

A Look at Masterful Character Description

We began this series on masterful writing last week by taking a look at James Lee Burke’s wonderful character descriptions. All too often writers—beginning and seasoned—skimp on description. Or if they do manage a few lines, they’re uninspired, boring, or laden with stereotype. Good writing—masterful writing—takes hard work.

But it’s not just effort that’s involved. More than effort is needed to craft masterful description. Description is more than what the eye sees. It involves making judgments, coming to conclusions, forming impressions. Since our descriptions must be filtered through our POV character’s mind and heart, instead of thinking of description as a laundry list of items (hair color, eye color, shoe brand), they should reveal just as much, if not more, about our POV character as the person (or place or animal or food—anything) being described.

Think how differently you might approach describing a character who walks into a room if you focused more on the one witnessing than the one being described.

I mentioned in the last post that you must truly know your characters through and through. You must create deep, rich, complex characters full of experience, opinions, tastes, beliefs, sensibilities, prejudices, wounds, knowledge, and so much more. If you don’t, you can’t mine deeply into description fully in POV. Continue Reading…