I can honestly say this is one of the best books on the writing craft I've ever read. Wood doesn't waste time, but gets right to the point and shows you how to use description through narrative, dialogue, point of view, and more. She discusses each technique, and then offers a summary at the end of the chapter called a "wrap up" that neatly ties it all together. I was impressed with her no nonsense style. So many craft books veer into tangents and never really get to the point. Wood cuts the BS and delivers the goods.
There were so many meaty nuggets of wisdom in this short book that I couldn't possibly name them all, but here are a few that really spoke to me.
1. Don't use long, detailed character descriptions. For example, when a man meets his love interest for the first time, our tendency is to describe her from head to toe. Don't. Instead, do as Wood suggests: "Deliver physical characteristics a few at a time, and the character in question becomes much more seeable." And don't show us every single feature. That's just boring and plain irritating. A few solid, vivid details will do more to characterize your character than an entire paragraph.
2. Use dialogue to describe a setting. Wood's example: "My God, this place looks like the dark side of the moon," Henrietta said. You can also use dialogue to show what something isn't. Wood's example: "It's not exactly Sesame Street," Brenda murmured.
3. Get rid of melodrama and sentimentality. One of Wood's rules: "Avoid the pathetic fallacy." What is a pathetic fallacy? Wood describes it as "ascribing human emotions to natural phenomena or inanimate objects." Examples: "happy hydrangeas" or "grateful daisies." Just...don't. It sounds tacky. And bad.
4. Long, rambling descriptions of your setting are also a no-no. This is one we've all been guilty of doing. I've spent a lot of time describing the entire interior of a room before. To what end? Does it move the story ahead? Do we need to care that the window has priscilla curtains or the floors are polished oak? Maybe - if it is important to the story. As Wood says, "You must add details that remind readers that the setting has a purpose." Are the priscilla curtains dirty because the main character has developed a fear of cleaning? Do they mask cracks in the window from a gunshot? This is how to make your setting details fit the story.
|This is Slick. He asked if he could be included in this post even though it has nothing to do with him. I didn't argue. He likes to head butt at 2 a.m. That's why I didn't argue.|