Saturday, June 6, 2009

Description in Books

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.
~Elmore Leonard

A school librarian once told me that the way kids choose books is to open them and see how much white space is on the pages. Too many words and they won't even try it. After that, I watched the kids in our library. Sure enough, the librarian was right. Now, some books (Harry Potter, Twilight) can get away with being word heavy. Most books, especially for middle graders, can't. Long paragraphs filled with wordy descriptions are out too. They want quick, fun and light. And too be honest, as a reader (I shouldn't be admitting this), I sometimes find myself skimming long descriptions. They slow my reading down.
So, as I writer, I ask myself these questions:
1. How can I edit my descriptions? I use the rule of three. What three things does the reader need to know about the scene? And then, I try to use tight sentences with strong verbs to convey the information.
2. Am I breaking up informational paragraphs with action and dialogue? I don't need to tell everything at once. I need to let the story unfold for the reader.
Hopefully, by using these rules, my books won't be the ones put back on the shelf!

"Keep reading and dreaming"

God Bless,


Deb Logan said...

Yep. Avoiding the dreaded "info dump" is a must. Hadn't considered analyzing the amount of white space in my mss. Thanks for the tip!

MG Higgins said...

Great ideas and ones I need to keep in mind. Thank you!