Saturday, September 21, 2013

Describing vs Evoking

Any fool can describe a scene as they write. They often write something like this:

Sally walked in wearing a blue coat, her her long blond hair running down her back. The blue made her pretty face look that much prettier. She was so pretty that men watched her as she walked by.

Technically, those are accurate sentences. However, these sentences fail to bring an image to mind. There is nothing in them that would grab a reader. In essence, they are a checklist of facts.

The thing about the written word is that it is TERRIBLE at accurate description. The more that you work for accurate description, the more bogged down you will be in facts. You can sit down and write me ten thousand words on the beautiful Helen of Troy and I still won't really know what she looks like, nor will I be struck by her beauty.

The power of the written word is the human mind. If you give a person some facts, that mind will stitch those facts together into wholly new information. What excellent writers do is skip the checklist of facts and go straight for evocation.

For example:

Sally walked in wearing that blue coat that Henry so adored. When she wore that coat, there was something special that showed in her face that cried Helen of Troy. In those moments, he knew what Paris felt. Other knew it too, for every eye of every man followed her through the room. 

I won't win awards with that description, but I do demonstrate a few things.

First, your descriptions do not need to be impartial. The writer is not required to be neutral on their subject. In fact, I assert that being partial is a vital part of the writing process.

The second trick that I use here is a simple comparison. By comparing her to Helen of Troy, I tell you that she is a great beauty without having to tell you that she is a beauty.

Third, I spoke about Sally's emotional impact on Henry. Events have emotional feels. You can't see emotion, because this is writing, so you must remember to write it in. In that respect, you are a puppeteer giving your character form. Without you, a puppet is just a puppet, but with you, that puppet becomes a distinct character.

Once you get the hand of evoking, it becomes dirt simple. You use such techniques all the time in real life. All that you are doing here is wiring the rest of your life into your writing.

We can go to an extreme when using first person point of view.

Sally walked in wearing that blue coat that I so adored. When she walked in, I felt like Paris, and just as lucky, but as I saw all the other men stare at her, I had to wonder. Would someone steal her away, and I found myself Menaleus or whoever that ancient king was, and was someone else Paris? You may think me a fool for thinking so, but I'd be a fool not to. The mistake that Menaleus made was that he did not value what he had, and so she fled away with someone who did. The Trojan War happened after that. It was a ten year long divorce that made all other divorces look like cakewalks.

Again, I won't win awards for that, but Gawd-Damn, that was FUN to write.

Don't forget folks, part of writing is fun, and if you aren't having a hoot of a time writing it, nobody will have a hoot reading it.