GET TO THE POINT (or the joy of writing succinctly)

Hey hey folks. Hope you are doing well.

After my last post here I want to give what may seem to be a counterpoint piece of advice. Last time I waxed philosophical about metaphor and the long strung description that give lyrical beauty to your writing.

All of that holds true.

Today, however, I want to talk about writing concisely.

We writer folks love our words. We think in words and when we write (especially first drift) we tend to go overboard, stuffing our sentences with every cool little adverb and adjective we can find. Oftentimes we are writing to make everything as clear to the reader as we can, really wanting them to be able to see the room we are describing. Our characters walk into a bar and we want to tell the reader how big the bar is, what kind of decorations there are on the wall, […]

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THE METAPHOR OF THE THING (or, getting my Cormac McCarthy on)

Today I will be in a car heading to the Olde City New Blood convention in St. Augustine, Fl so I apologize in advance that I will not be getting back here to any comments until later in the day, possibly in the late evening.

That being said, let’s get into the heart of today’s musing.

I’ve been a descriptive writer from the get. I will tell you exactly what a thing looks like and every moment of its existence as it relates to my story. I’ve always prided myself on it and I work to improve what is already one of my best abilities. I seek out new words, looking to boldly go where no writer has gone before.

I use words like eldritch, corpulent, and etheric. I pair words with things and actions that create a jarring feel to them like oilsheen crackle and I use: “A musty, […]

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On Writing: Description and Setting

Have you ever read a scene full of featureless, naked people in an empty void? (Not a love scene mind you!) Okay, so theoretically the characters aren’t naked, and they most likely are in a place of some sort, but they might as well all be mannequins in an empty room for all the reader knows because the writer failed to describe, well, anything.

Unless we’re reading a comic book, it is up to the writer to use words to paint pictures in the reader’s mind. We don’t need to know everything (that would bog us down) but we need enough details that our imagination will fill in the gaps. As a general rule, it is often advised that reader needs three descriptive details to ground them in a scene/ establish what someone looks like (your mileage may vary). A good rule of thumb, but how and when do you […]

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Bonus! Descriptive Passages, part IV: Dialogue

First off, allow me a moment for a shameless plug: After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar, a new anthology from Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray will be released tomorrow, March 1, by DAW. The anthology includes the very first D.B. Jackson publication, a short story called “The Tavern Fire.” The story is set in the Thieftaker universe — in other words, 1760s Boston — and even includes a character from the Thieftaker novels, although not my lead character. It takes place on the night of the Great Boston Fire of 1760 and offers one possible explanation for the fire’s origins. After Hours also includes stories from Laura Anne Gilman, Jennifer Dunne, Juliet E. McKenna, Anton Strout, S.C. Butler, and many others. Check it out. And while you’re at it, check out the newly launched D.B. Jackson website.

Before taking time out last week to mark the Presidents’ Day holiday, I […]

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Descriptive Passages, Part III: Action

For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing about descriptive passages and Vernor’s Law, trying to make clear that a description is most powerful and most effective when it does more than just describe. These passages should also reinforce character, backstory, narrative, etc. Character descriptions should tell us as much about the character doing the describing as about the character being described. Descriptions of setting should reinforce all those other story elements that we’ve mentioned. And I’ve been quite dogmatic in saying that in order to keep your book from languishing you must be doing several things at once (character development, plot advancement, background deepening) with all your scenes. I’m about to contradict pretty much all of that.


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Descriptive Passages, Part II: Character

I used last week’s post to introduce the topic of descriptive passages. I focused on setting, but my point was one that works for all aspects of storytelling, as I hope this week’s post will demonstrate. Keeping in mind Vernor’s Law (at any given time in a book we should be accomplishing at least two and preferably all three of the following: furthering plot, developing character, filling in background) I tried to show with last week’s novel excerpts how a descriptive passage, rather than slowing down narrative progress, actually allows us to reinforce the work we do on plot and background.

I’m going to touch on many of the same themes this week as I discuss character descriptions, but I’ll also bring elements of point of view and character development, drawing on some of the stuff Edmund mentioned in Saturday’s post. I would also refer you to a couple of […]

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Descriptive Passages, Part I: Setting

Writers often speak of different aspects of our work in a way that makes them sound compartmentalized. We develop characters, we establish setting, we advance our narrative, we sprinkle in healthy doses of action, we write descriptive passages. The truth is, though, that if we handle these things correctly, there is nothing compartmentalized about the result. Character and narrative development feed on one another, propelled forward by those action scenes, and meshing seamlessly with the worldbuilding or research we have done to make our settings come to life.

Descriptive passages, on the other hand, often seem to get short shrift in these discussions. They are mentioned as an afterthought, a necessary evil, something that we throw in now and then to connect one scene to another, or something we have to write so that our characters have faces, and our settings have something more to them than a bland landscape […]

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