Friday, February 26, 2010

How much description? The Writer’s Perspective.

Last time I asked for your opinion of description in books from a reader’s perspective, but how do you feel about it as a writer?
I’ll confess, description is one of my writing demons. Action and dialogue usually flow from my brain to my fingers without much problem, but when it comes to description I’ll sit, stare at the screen, and go over the sequence line by line.
Have you noticed that some writers can describe six different sunsets in a book and it never becomes tiresome? I consider that talent!
When facing a place I know I need some description I start by asking what my character sees. I try to envision those sunsets and then try to come up with words that don’t sounds so cliché they make me want to gag. But visual description is only one part of the experience.
We have to ask ourselves what our character physically feels. Is he hot or cold? Are her clothes comfortable or so formal they’re making life hard? Is there a cold hard floor beneath her or soft carpet?
Then there’s the sense of smell. Is there fresh clean air or the sour scent of traffic?
How about sounds? Is the room deathly silent or so loud he can’t think?
When it finally comes down to actually constructing the novel, there are two main things I try to keep in mind. The first is “where to describe.” At what points do I decide to stop the progression of the story and let the reader know what my characters are physically experiencing? The next is deciding how much description do I need before I pick the action back up.
It’s a balance. A story feels bare without description, but I still think there should be more action than description. I.E. if the chapters are primary description, there’s something wrong. The story must progress! I try to stick to description that really means something to the story.
For example, describing how cramped a character’s living space is can help the reader understand her current lacking financial situation. However, a wall by wall description of everything in the room distracts everyone from the point!
So, what about you? I’ve described my writing style and methods. What about yours?
One huge point that a commenter brought up on the last post was that the particular genre you are writing in makes a difference. For instance, mystery is generally expected to be a little faster paced, whereas more literary work can have more description without feeling too slow. Do you agree?

Btw, if you haven’t voted in my poll yet, be sure you do! Yes, I’m having way too much fun with this. ;)

Monday, February 22, 2010

How much? Too much?

I wasn’t planning on writing about description today, until I found myself in a love-hate relationship this weekend. I picked up a new book and so far absolutely love the mystery part! Each chapter involving the mystery is oh-so-creepy-scary good. The problem is each of those chapters are sandwiched between three or four chapters of back stories and descriptions.
I long to know what happens next in the investigation, but instead find myself drowning in character history, wall by wall room layouts, detailed religious practices, character’s physical descriptions, and a long itemized list of objects that can be crammed into a community center. I feel like yelling, “Stop it!”
But as I stare at the cover reproachfully, I am aware that description level is a preference when it comes to readers. “How much is too much?” can be a subjective question.
I’ve suffered through writers who feel the need to do a complete and outright flat description of ever person met and every room entered. That is obviously bad writing, but I don’t think that’s the case I’m dealing with right now. The writing is actually very good and very colorful…there’s just too much! I know so much about the characters and their history, but the story has progressed so little.
So, as a reader, do you have a “description” threshold? Do you ever feel like there is too much? How about too little? Can a writer under-describe?
Jane Austen never told us much more than who was pretty and who was “tolerable I suppose,” but does that mean she was lacking something?
I’m asking you these questions today as fellow readers. Next time I’ll approach it from a writer’s perspective…because that’s a whole different can of worms. ;)

Btw, thanks ever so much to Elana Johnson for the contests she’s been running lately! They've not only been fun, but helpful to her fellow writers. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Help Me Decide & A Great Opportunity For Writers.

This is a double topic post, just because I have two things I want to say and I don’t want to wait to post them separately. Yeah, waiting is not one of my strong points. God and I work on it often. ;)

ANYWAY…First off, I’m having a great time with the discussion we’re all having over Blonde heroines verses other hair colors, both here on the social networking world and in the real one. A friend of mine came to visit this week and one of the first things she said after getting settled was, “I support blonde heroines!” :D
So, I’ve decided to ask for your help decided my next round with hair colors. The current heroine I’m working on does not yet have an assigned color. Would you like to help me decided? Then vote in the poll I just put up (look to the right). Whatever color has the most votes will appear in the story.

All right, up next. Author, Elana Johnson is offering an amazing opportunity to writers. She’s running a contest on her blog this week. The grand prize? You’ll get your query critiqued for free by a real agent. I think it’s fair to say we could all use a little professional help when it comes to our writing and especially our queries. It’s the first chance we have to sell our work.
So, check it out at
(Deadline: Sunday)

Have a great weekend all! And hooray for team USA! Two gold medals last night alone!
…Hm, did I just introduce a third topic?

Monday, February 15, 2010

She’s a blonde. No, she’s a brunette. No, she’s a blonde. No, she’s a brunette.

My sister, also known as my first-line editor, is as much a part of my writing experience as my laptop. In fact, I would hazard to say if it wasn’t for her encouragement Only Angels Are Bulletproof would never have gotten past four chapters.
But we do have one long standing disagreement when it comes to my books. Hair color.
“You need more brunette heroines,” she’ll start. “All of your heroines are blonde.”
“So?” I’ll reply.
“So, blondes aren’t supposed to be the heroines. They’re either the dumb character or the evil character.”
“That’s not true. There are lots of good blondes.”
“Name one.”
“Yeah, you really should dye your hair dark. Nobody actually believes blondes can write.”
And that’s when I have to decide whether to laugh or throttle her…She’s still alive, just in case you were wondering.
Well, I still say I’m proving there are smart blondes one heroine at the time. But if you ever come upon a character in my books who is only described as having “brown eyes” and nothing more, know that is a character my sister and I had a disagreement over. This way my sister can believe she’s a brunette and I can know she’s blonde. ;)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Random Questions For Writers

Just for a little Friday fun, a series of “writer personality” questions. Copy, paste, and answer these questions to introduce us to the type of writer you are. :)

-Do you have a pen/pencil collection? How many of those are chewed? Actually, finding a pencil is usually a huge problem...then finding a pencil with an eraser. (sigh)
-Do you prefer handwriting or typing furiously? I like to handwrite out my notes (give my eyes a computer screen break), but when it comes to writing the actual manuscript my fingers are fixed to the keys.
-How often do you get inspiration? All the time. Usually I get inspired by personality types or fractions of a specific story I hear.
-Are you blogging this on a computer or laptop? Laptop! I love having the ability to write wherever I want to. (desk, dining table, recliner, pillow top ;)
-Do you get inspiration more in the early morning or late at night? Inspiration usually occurs when I’m doing chores or something that doesn’t require too much focus. By the time the afternoon rolls around I’m ready to write!
-Do certain movies/books/music inspire you? Movies and TV shows usually inspire me the most. Even little things like a commercial about motorcycle insurance. I suddenly think, “That’s it! My character needs to ride a motorcycle!”
-How do you incorporate God into your stories? When it comes to novels, I usually put in the full gospel message. When it comes to shorter works, I’ll usually examine a specific idea, like providence or second chances.
-Do you kill off your villains or make them repent? I almost always kill them. Drama!
-Are the majority of your characters magical beings, humans, or halflings? Humans. I seem to know more about them than I do magical beings. ;)
-What genre of writing are you most comfortable in? Mystery is my most common genre. Almost any character type can be applied to a suspenseful plotline. On occasion I dabble in storylines that are more humors dramas...I know, that doesn’t exactly make sense, but I there’s no other way to describe it.
-Do you work better alone or with someone else? Alone! By the time I sit down to write I’ve got a pretty clear idea in my head. It’s hard picture joining that with someone else’s ideas...but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
-Do your stories make sense, or do they ramble wildly? Hm, well, it all makes sense at the end…but along the way I like wild rides. ;)
-Are your characters mostly Renegades, Peacekeepers or a mish-mash? My heroes tend to be anti-heroes (teetering between good and bad). My heroines tend to be “average girls” who get caught up in a plotline beyond their control.
-Are you a sucker for good grammar? NO. I prefer to write in speech pattern form, as if I’m having a conversation with my reader. Grammar check and I often have disagreements.
-How is your handwriting? Very good. Handwriting is important in my family. That being said, I prefer to type. (I need spell check.)
-How evil are your villains? I usually have a “super evil” villain as well as a somewhat bad guy who achieves redemption somewhere along the way.
-Are you long-winded or succinct? I am a very “tight” writer, which is both good and bad. I don’t ramble down ridiculous, boring rabbit trails and useless facts, but at the same time I have trouble describing things properly.
-Do you have typical writer traits such as ink stains on your fingers or a pencil behind your ear? Just that glazed over look whenever I’m trying to work out a new story in my head. Those are usually the days when I hear, “Is there a reason you’re being so quiet?”
-Would someone walking past you on the street consider you normal? Hm, I don’t think there’s anything in particular about me that stands out. ;) Unless we’re talking about my hair on a humid day.
-Do you write mostly poetry, stories, novels or a mixture? Always fiction, though I write all different lengths (full novel, short story, novella).
-Do your characters vary in accents, appearance and attitude or are they mostly the same? My characters are all over the board when it comes to speech patterns, appearance, and attitude. That was actually something I was told to do way back when I first started writing. -Do real people and/or places inspire your writing? Locations often do. I write a lot of stories that take place in New York. That is one of the few locations I’ve vacationed in. Only Angels Are Bulletproof takes place in L.A. where my mother grew up.
-What is your favorite character? Or do you choose to remain unbiased in case of a revolt? I love my gentlemen thieves, my hard-rock party boys, my good girls having a hard time dealing with life. I have trouble with those boring characters who just fill in the blanks.
-Do you talk to your characters? Do they talk back? Hm, not really, though sometimes I’ll say their lines out loud to see how they actually sound.
-Are you more comfortable with girl or boy main characters? I’m comfortable with both. Only Angels Are Bulletproof is narrated by a 35 year old man...I often get comments about how good I nailed him and how weird that is. ;)
-Do you follow basic overused plot lines with new twists thrown in or do you depart from the norm all the time? I can’t stay within the usual bounds of the “whodunit.” It bores me. I do like the “fish out of water” scenario though.
-Do you feel God has called you to be a writer/poet? Will you grasp the power of the pen? Yes, and I’m so grateful that He has!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Share your link!

I’ve started a share your link board on my Face Book fan page’s discussion board.
Please come and share the link to your blog, website, Face Book fan page, Twitter, and/or Etsy shop.
It’s a great chance to announce your work and find others follow and fan.
Just hop on over to my fan page and click on the discussion board.
And don’t forget to tell us about your link.

Next month I’ll randomly pick a few from each category and post them on this blog.
Thanks for joining in. :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

What do you like?

Earlier this week I posted the question, “When it comes to blogs, what types do you like to read?” on my Face Book page. Frankly, the answers surprised me a little.
Almost everyone answered, “interesting stories” or “funny stores” or, my personal favorite, “tales of people being attacked or harassed by life.” :)
The reason these answers surprised me is that they sort of fly in the face of articles on how people should blog. It is generally believed that bloggers should stick to one topic and generally be informative. I’ve never much questioned this view…I just thought I was alone in preferring bloggers who talked about life. Lol.
I do enjoy informative blogs or topical blogs, but sometimes they get to be a bit repetitive for me. It goes the same for writing blogs. I post a lot about books and writing, but it’s not any fun if that’s all I talk about. ;)
So what about you? To all those out there in the blogosphere, what types of blogs do you like to read?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Do happy endings really exist?

I read an interesting book this weekend that asked the question, “Is there really such a thing as a happy ending?” You know, the type that takes place at the end of a book or movie.
Guy meets girl, they marry: happy ending.
Or, creative genius reaches his goal, his work is recognized: happy ending.
Well, the answer to that question is simply, NO. (Hold on with me her for a second.)
The answer is no because life goes on! Well, in the real world it does. Life doesn’t just stop in a blissful glow because we’ve reached a goal. There’s still work to do!
Trust me, getting a book published wasn’t the end of the story for me. In fact, it’s just a step on a path that still leaves me feeling out of breath sometimes. :-) But I’m still glad I’m here.
The point of this short post? Don’t think of happy endings as endings. They are in fact new beginnings.
In a sense, aren’t you glad that’s the way it goes?

By the way, if you’re looking for a good little book to spend a day or two on, I can recommend Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life.
I love that title. :)