Friday, December 18, 2009

Adding more than the basic details

By Heather Justesen

Lately I've been trying to dig through another edit before submitting a new book to my publisher. I've also been up to my elbows in sweet holiday confections--both making ones to give away and ones coming in from friends and neighbors. That means I've been spending a lot of quality time with my audio books. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I love to listen to a book while I travel or while I'm working in the kitchen, which allows me to 'read' other genres and squeeze in time to study the way other writers string words together.

I've never been a very descriptive writer--or at least I wasn't when I started out. I've spent a lot of time reviewing passages in my books, working in more description that enriches the scene, rather than drags it down so I'm always eager to see how other writers manage it. What kinds of detail does the author add to add life and background, to make the people more real? How do they weave certain things through the series of books to give it more realism and to give out clues to readers about what is going on?

I also like to study the way the personalities are crafted. As I've been listening along, there are scenes in my current book when I can tell who is speaking just from the conversational comments before speech tags are added--even when there are four or five sisters in the scene. Who they are just shines out and they are all so distinct.

I'm striving to add more of those kinds of details, while trimming back on unnecessary clutter as I work through this edit. And I'm looking forward to next week when I'll have a couple of uninterrupted days to really dig into this draft. If I can translate my scene, my characters to paper so clearly that you can hear the fire crackling and smell the sweetness of frosting on the cookies, I'll have succeeded.


Don said...

My writing tends to be very sparse as well. I have one complete upcoming editing pass dedicated to filling in descriptions.

Kimberly Job said...

Sparse definitely doesn't define Heather. She knows more words than anybody I know. :)