Greetings all,

We’re still quiet on the Weech front in terms of announcements, so that gives me an opportunity to just talk about the craft.

Cover
I’m currently reviewing stories from the Unfettered II anthology. Here’s the most recent one

If you read any of my book reviews, you’ll see that I evaluate a book on a specific set of criteria: Character, Worldbuilding, Dialogue, Description, and Exposition. I’m of the opinion that if you’re really good at just one of those categories, someone will be interested in your book. The more you improve your ability in all of those categories, the more readers will appreciate your work. Sure, genre plays a role. Frankly a romance author could knock all those categories out of the park, and I’d never know because I just don’t like the genre. But in a world of averages, I feel my theory is true.

I’ve spoken about character before, and as I was brainstorming on what I wanted to write about, description popped into my head.

I affirm that description is critical, but it must be enough to help activate the senses, but not so much to notice. Therefore, description is the most important characteristic of a book that must never be noticed.

So I want you to do an experiment. You can follow along with me if you wish. Start by pulling up your current work in progress. If you don’t have a work in progress, write a couple hundred words.

Here is a scene from Images of Truth, the first book in the Perception of War saga:


 

shipfighter
Concept rendering of a Snake, a specops fighter from Perception of War.

The Var’lechen seemed to be the antithesis of Volition ideals. Where a Volition would only die to protect others and only fight so others didn’t have to, Var’lechen seemed to be willing to kill anyone so long as they drew blood. True, Var’lechen and Volition were equally willing to die, but the Var’lechen seemed to be willing to exchange death if only to increase the destruction.

“Barrick,” Bani said. “I have an idea.”

Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige listened even as ships passed by so quickly they seemed like only streaks of light to him.

“I’m open to ideas,” the human pilot grunted.

“I want you to fly straight at one of them.”

The silence matched Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige’s thoughts. Was he seeking a sacrificial death?

“Trust me,” Bani said. “Go straight at one of the bastards.”

Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige’s craft shifted, and the thrusters behind him flared as he headed directly toward an enemy.

I come to you willingly (MOON GOD).  Please let this death be worthy of entrance to your hallowed halls. 

The enemy craft’s thrusters burst to life to charge at Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige’s fighter. I fought for my comrades. I die so they don’t have to. I don’t know how to protect Barrick and Zango. Forgive me for that.

With 4-1 odds, the Var’lechen was more than willing to sacrifice himself in exchange for one (SNAKE).  Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige considered trying to fire, but freighter was still right behind the enemy.

The Var’lechen charged. Netriod, I will miss you, my friend.

The enemy fighter burst. Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige’s craft zipped through a quickly fading ball of fire. For an instant, he as washed in light, and then it faded.

“Figured they’d be willing to fly right into you,” Bani explained. “So we took advantage of their suicidal focus to shoot them down while they were focused on you.”

So it wasn’t to be. It wasn’t a truly worthy death anyway, Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige thought, trying to tamp down his disappointment. I’m glad my death didn’t require Zango and Barrick’s. That much was true. A true Volition would never want others to die with him. But am I cursed to live forever?

A strange thought entered Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige’s mind. He pictured the crew laughing and sitting together at the fire on (GYPSY PLANET). He thought of times he and Netriod played (SPACE CHESS) together. (MOON GOD) help me! Could I truly be wanting to live?


 

Hopefully, you have something up in front of you.  Now, what I want you to do first is just read your scene.

Things to note:  This is a discovery draft. There are details here that are buried in my notes somewhere and notes to myself that I need to address. I don’t let any of that get in the way of my writing. I make the notes and KEEP DRAFTING! I’ll address the issues in the next draft. I recommend you do the same.

Back on track.  After reading your draft, ask yourself:

What do I see?

What do I hear?

What do I smell?

What do I taste?

What do I feel?

I’m going to go back to my segment and do that for myself.

What do I see? Ships creating streaks of light. An enemy fighter burst. There’s a freighter in there somewhere (behind the enemy). A ball of fire.

What do I hear?

What do I smell?

What do I taste?

What do I feel?

Now you may say, “I’m aware of more than that!” True, but it’s all exposition. I’m TELLING you all the things that are happening. However, you’re standing in the gunner’s seat with Adobrym (that’s what I call him). You’re not a camera, filming the action. Also, in this current draft, I’ve done nothing to activate the other senses.

This is actually very common for one of my discovery drafts. I’m all about “what happened.”  I skip a lot of details and information. That’s fine when you’re burning through a draft. But when you edit, you need to do a pass for description, and you really want to be brutal. How can you change the “telling” to a “showing.”

Now go through your draft again (I’ll do mine) and point out those opportunities.  Here’s a smaller segment of my section, and the notes I’ve left to myself or edits I’ve made:


 

shepherd
Concept rendering of Shepherd from Perception of War.

“Trust me,” Bani said (What does Bani sound like? Accent? Tone?). “Go straight at one of the bastards.”

Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige felt the ship tremble as it shifted, and the thrusters behind him flared as he headed directly toward an enemy. The thrusters wrapped him is a bright white light. 

I come to you willingly (MOON GOD).  Please let this death be worthy of entrance to your hallowed halls. 

Dots of light appeared behind the (DESCRIBE THE SHIP)  as its thrusters burst to life to charge at Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige’s fighter. I fought for my comrades. I die so they don’t have to. I don’t know how to protect Barrick and Zango. Forgive me for that.

With 4-1 odds, the Var’lechen was more than willing to sacrifice himself in exchange for one (SNAKE).  Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige considered trying to fire, but freighter was still right behind the enemy. Black scorch marks covered the boxy freighter. Its exterior lights flickered. 

The Var’lechen charged. Netriod, I will miss you, my friend.

The enemy fighter burst. Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige’s craft zipped through a quickly fading ball of fire. For an instant, he as washed in light, and then it faded. In his exosuite,  Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige didn’t feel the heat of the blast even as he soared through it. The pressure of the explosion made his ears clog, and then the blast, with no air to keep it alive, faded, and Adobrymanzorishadivongapazuzutige once more heard his own breath in his helmet. 


 

There are probably more opportunities in there. This is just a brief example. Ideally, you’d do this for a whole chapter.

Now, don’t overdo it, and don’t be overly repetitive. The trick is to add cues that are designed to activate the imagination. Don’t bombard your readers with the IMAX vision in your head, instead, provide them with a few moments that allow the IMAX theaters in their heads to come to life.

I hope this little glimpse into how I do things (I’m positive there are other methods that work) helps you with whatever project you’re working on.

If you have another technique, feel free to drop a link or post a comment.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

2 thoughts on “Description: The most important thing no one should notice.

  1. I hope, in your up-coming book, that their’s a pronunciation key on how to pronounce that alien guy’s name. My I-phone’s screen reader sure got tongue tied. Every time it read The name, it sounded like it was having a sneezing fit while speaking in tongues. According to your draft excerpts, this sounds like it will be a fun and suspenseful read, but trying to figure out that guy’s name was kind of distracting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The difficult part is narrating his POV chapters, where he uses his name. I actually have a scene where the new recruit has to learn to pronounce his name. Most call him Staff Sergeant, the captain (his best friend) calls him Adobrym (eh-DOAH-brim). Perception of War has a glossary and pronunciation guide. The few times I say his name in my head, I sort of speak it like a chant. I will say I made the decision on his name (and it’s relevance to the characters) taking a known risk. You see, Volitian start our with a single phonetic sound “A” for instance. With each major battle they win, they get to add a syllable to their name. So to truncate it is a huge dishonor. The bind that puts me in is the character (when I’m in his head) would never do that to himself. I countered that in a few ways, one of which was giving him the fewest POV chapters. If you like military sci-fi with lots of alien battles, I think you’ll like Perception of War (when it’s finished). Sojourn in Captivity is actually sort of a prequel novella. It takes one of the saga’s main characters and focuses one her. Though she doesn’t have near the level of action the series as a whole has. Her story is much more drama-based and coming of age.

      I really love that you brought this up. I was so focused on talking about description, I didn’t think to explain that part. Also, sorry for taking so long to reply. I’m normally on top of these things. Thanks for the interest!

      Liked by 1 person

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