Tag Archives: description

How to Dunk Your Reader in the Details (Figuratively)

I’m finishing up converting the workshop I did at Surrey International Writers Conference a month or so ago, Dunking Your Readers in the Details, as an on-demand class. That class was in turn based on an hourlong online writing class I did for Greg Wilson’s Twitch channel a few months ago.

The class has been fun to put together. Over the course of being taught multiple times, it’s evolved to a point where it presents a dozen tools for writing more immersive worlds, and includes several exercises to allow you to test out the different techniques and see what works for you.

Curious about it? Here’s the section on prioritizing the senses.
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Writing: Description, Details, and Delivering Information

I’m working on converting the Description and Delivering Information class to the on-demand version, along the same lines as the Character Building Workshop and the Literary Techniques for Genre Writers workshop, and hoping to finish it up over the next couple of days, which may be overly ambitious, because a) I am doing NaNoWriMo, b) life is complicated by Orycon and then a Thanksgiving trip on the 20th and c) this is my birthday weekend and I like to slack a little.

So, what’s the difference between taking one of my live online writing classes and the on-demand versions?
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Writing in 3-D

Landscape and long descriptions are often a feature of fantasy and science fiction. Often the purpose is to look gee-whiz pretty, but it can inform the story in many ways. Here, for example, is the beginning of Gormenghast:

Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbor until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the season, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.
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Looking at Description: Dorothy Dunnett

A series that I come back to repeatedly is Dorothy Dunnett’s marvelous six-volume series The Lymond Chronicles. Dunnett has two strengths: dialogue and its accompanying actions as well as a descriptive gift that I am bitterly envious of. Right now I’m working my way through the books for a third or fourth time, and I’m midway through Book 3, The Disorderly Knights. Continue reading

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Snow

It’s snowy out, the sort of snow I grew up with in Northern Indiana. A clumpy snow, a little wet, so it clings to branches in inch thick lines, making some more snow than branch. Last night I watched it drifting past the light in the parking lot, which illuminated a sphere of falling snow, like an open-air snow globe, the good kind without sparkles or glitter, just evocative white bits that make us think of quiet nights, growing quieter as the snow muffles sound. Continue reading

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