Here’s a game I sometimes use in the Creative Writing classroom to get students thinking about resisting the obvious when describing their world and their characters.
Here’s something for the romantics: an example of how to deploy metaphor to convey ideas of romance succinctly. In this video D.D. Johnston takes a process that is often unconscious and shows how and why we can arrive at the right image.
In this video we look at two descriptions of the same place, which appear at different stages of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. Although the place is the same, Smith is able to advance the story just by changing the sensory details on which she and her characters focus. Being able to do this, to show rather than tell, to use concrete description as an essential part of the story rather than a background, is central to how most writers work. But do remember that mimesis is not the only way to tell the story: there are many alternatives to the cinematic mode of narration.
Why is it that bikinis are sexy and naturism isn’t? Why do we never get to see the Blair Witch? And who cares whether your protagonist has attached earlobes? D.D. Johnston discusses the importance of being selective when describing your fictional world.
Want to know how to better describe what your characters look like? It’s about finding those details that make your characters “more evidently unique.” And sometimes the best description is no description.