Describing Description

Writing is just reading before it’s written to be read…. As a writer, I am concerned with what makes good writing. As a reader, you (and I) are also interested and affected by the quality of writing. While people will have different opinions about what represents good writing, most would likely agree that the quality of the writing–and therefore its effect on the reading– depends on good description. Even non-fiction suffers if it fails to bring the reader’s mind to some visual association with the subject. I have written for technical manuals and I have written fiction, stories. Each has its challenges and rewards. One thing they have in common, as far as I am concerned, is the need for good description.

My hand copies the pages that are turning in my head… Description in a technical manual does not carry the same purpose as description in a novel, as you can imagine. In a technical manual one might say something like Remove the red wire from the positive terminal by loosening the terminal lug (counter-clockwise) with a small Phillips head screwdriver. In a novel one might say something like Phillip rubbed shaky fingers across his damp forehead as he stared at the red wire. The screwdriver slipped in the grease and grit that covered his hands and now smeared his forehead like war paint. The smell of hot metal and plastic warned him to hurry. They did tell him it was the red wire, didn’t they? The former describes the steps in a process. The latter describes details for the purpose of drawing the reader’s senses into the scene. The task for a writer is to develop the appropriate type and amount of description without over doing or under doing it. Read the rest of this entry »