Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 29

Thread: Hello, any advice on how to describe size?

  1. #1
    If the Rule is Broken — Break it. Knigel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Vancouver
    Posts
    80

    Hello, any advice on how to describe size?

    I've been trying not to use so many adjectives and adverbs, and instead try to give exact descriptions of things by showing and comparing. I've been getting stuck on showing the size of objects. I keep doing things like comparing objects to my own finger or forearms lengths, but I know that's stupid since no one knows what I look like. I also think of things such as animals or other items that have different sizes.

    What all do you use to get an imaginative boost to describing sizes?

    (This is also my first post here so hello and I apologise if I've done anything wrong)

  2. #2
    Banned
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    452
    My first thought when I read this thread was 'size of what'? And then I thought naughty things because it's midnight and at midnight I tend to have naughty thoughts if I'm still awake.

    I use adjectives to describe size. "Colossal", "Humongous," "Medium", "Ant-like" "Tiny". I wanna keep things simple.

  3. #3
    If the Rule is Broken — Break it. Knigel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Vancouver
    Posts
    80
    Well, to be honest, this thread was spurred by trying to describe old women sucking on 13 inch cigars.

    No joke.

  4. #4
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    5,048
    Compare the size to other things/objects.
    If someone is taller, give me their height and relate them to other people. "He was seven feet tall and could see over any crowd."

    But then, why are you trying to give exact measurements? You don't need to fully describe something if there's not already a large focus on this.
    Example: The MC picks up a pen. He describes that its a custom pen, the handle carved from wood, and on the tip is a darker area which appears to be a stain of blood. You don't have to say that the pen is 2 finger-lengths long.

    EDIT: Swing by the New Members forum.
    Don't Fear Failure.

    "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" -- Alvin Toffler.

    "The heights of great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  5. #5
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    No longer in Cali :(
    Posts
    4,095
    "The old woman was sucking on a cigar as long as her forearm."

    Or...

    "The old woman was sucking on a cigar so long she could use it as a walking stick if she wished." (Obviously this is slightly longer than 13 inches, hur hur, but I couldn't resist. )
    corny: This is the way of the future. Nonsensical fragments and oozingly gross weeping sores of language spilling over the keyboard.

    I feel like corny needs to have a book review site, really.

    Hippo Cartoons
    Twitter

    Repped by M&O

  6. #6
    If the Rule is Broken — Break it. Knigel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Vancouver
    Posts
    80
    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Compare the size to other things/objects.
    If someone is taller, give me their height and relate them to other people. "He was seven feet tall and could see over any crowd."

    But then, why are you trying to give exact measurements? You don't need to fully describe something if there's not already a large focus on this.
    Example: The MC picks up a pen. He describes that its a custom pen, the handle carved from wood, and on the tip is a darker area which appears to be a stain of blood. You don't have to say that the pen is 2 finger-lengths long.

    EDIT: Swing by the New Members forum.

    Thank you. The reason I want to be exact in sizes is because some things make for better visuals. As I mentioned, the cigars are one thing, but I was also trying to describe geckos that were about the size of my middle finger. Since there are so many different sizes of geckos, I want to differentiate them from others. At the same time, I don't want to use adjectives. I was to show it so that the reader can see it.

  7. #7
    If the Rule is Broken — Break it. Knigel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Vancouver
    Posts
    80
    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    "The old woman was sucking on a cigar as long as her forearm."

    Or...

    "The old woman was sucking on a cigar so long she could use it as a walking stick if she wished." (Obviously this is slightly longer than 13 inches, hur hur, but I couldn't resist. )

    This is also good and I like exaggeration, but for the piece I'm working on, I am trying to use as much realism as possible. I am experimenting in exactness. I'm trying to control all of my usual devices. I'm allowing myself some metaphor and simile, but I'm still trying to restrain that to visual objects.

  8. #8
    Girl Detective AW Moderator Stacia Kane's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    In cahoots with the other boo-birds
    Posts
    8,147
    Quote Originally Posted by Knigel View Post
    Thank you. The reason I want to be exact in sizes is because some things make for better visuals. As I mentioned, the cigars are one thing, but I was also trying to describe geckos that were about the size of my middle finger. Since there are so many different sizes of geckos, I want to differentiate them from others. At the same time, I don't want to use adjectives. I was to show it so that the reader can see it.

    I don't see a problem with "gekkos the size of my/his middle finger." No, we don't know exactly how long the character's fingers are, but we certainly have an idea in mind; unless your character is a giant, we assume his fingers are a couple of inches long. We don't need to know the size of the gekkos down to the millimeter.

    All you have to do is make sure the reader can visualize what you're writing. "Finger-length gekkos" is easily visualized.
    http://www.staciakane.com

    FIVE DOWN, a Downside anthology, available now!
    Four previously published short stories and one brand new novella, together in one volume.

    Click here for more details.


    WRONG WAYS DOWN available now!


  9. #9
    Huh. kkbe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Left of center
    Posts
    4,978
    What all do you use to get an imaginative boost to describing sizes?
    Hoo doggie.



    Agree w/ the general consensus, which is, generally, you needn't be absolutely, totally, completely, 100% accurate in your descriptions. Most of the time, ballpark is fine.

    Sometimes it's okay to leave some details to the reader's imagination. Actually, sometimes it's prudent. And sometimes it's difficult to do that, at least for me it is. You have a picture in your head of something and the tendency is to want to give that to your readers so they can envision your vision, your glorious story. But leaving nothing to the imagination reduces a reader's level of engagement, which isn't what you want to do.

    What does that have to do with old ladies puffing 13-inch-long stogies? Um. . .

    Last edited by kkbe; 01-30-2013 at 08:01 PM. Reason: c-o-n-s- oh sh*t
    From CHERRY:
    It was a brutal kiss, devastatingly brutal.
    He didn’t fight it.

    /my blog/

    Rep'd by Brent Taylor @ TriadaUS Lit. Agency

  10. #10
    Trust: that most precious coin. little_e's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    2,688
    If it's a 13 inch cigar, I'd just say it's a 13 inch cigar.
    Maybe a baker's dozen.

  11. #11
    Banned
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    452
    Reading about 13-inch cigars and thinking I better because my mind's in the gutter right now.

  12. #12
    I was only joking! Honest! mirandashell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    England
    Posts
    14,659
    Hmmm..... the problem I have with reading a description of a '13-inch cigar' is I wouldn't believe it. That's over a foot long! Try putting a ruler in your mouth and controlling it. And then imagine it with one end on fire.

    nah, that would make me roll my eyes and put the book down.
    I wish I was a glow worm. A glow worm's never glum. Cos how you can be grumpy when the sun shines out your bum?

  13. #13
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    7,933
    Quote Originally Posted by Knigel View Post
    Well, to be honest, this thread was spurred by trying to describe old women sucking on 13 inch cigars.

    No joke.
    You could say something like, "The cigar was far longer than it should be." Or "Twice as long as the average cigar."

    That said, there's also nothing wrong with adjectives, if they add clarity.

  14. #14
    empty-nester! shadowwalker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    SE Minnesota
    Posts
    5,130
    I wouldn't worry about the gecko - call it small and let it go. The cigar? I'd go with something like 'remarkably long' - no reason to steer clear of adjectives completely. But with any descriptive detail, you should ask yourself why it's necessary to be that detailed. I'd picture a small gecko versus a large one (although frankly I had no idea there were large ones), but the point for me would be why would it matter? Same with the cigar - does it matter that it's extremely long, or is the fact she's smoking a cigar the main point?
    Je suis Charlie

    "It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

    Passion is easy; commitment is hard.

  15. #15
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    West Michigan
    Posts
    12,733
    I'd just use "13-inch cigar" or maybe "footlong". You don't have to use a simile or metaphor for everything. In fact, if it's just a passing description without significance to the story, a metaphor can be distracting.

    Quote Originally Posted by mirandashell View Post
    Hmmm..... the problem I have with reading a description of a '13-inch cigar' is I wouldn't believe it. That's over a foot long! Try putting a ruler in your mouth and controlling it. And then imagine it with one end on fire.

    nah, that would make me roll my eyes and put the book down.
    Depends on the context. It wouldn't be realistic in a modern, urban context. Commercially made cigars aren't much larger than 9 inches. However, if the story was about a small village and home-made cigars, I wouldn't have a problem with it.
    --Roger J. Carlson

    If you've received spam from me, my apologies. My gmail contact list was stolen and they spoof me every couple of months. Nothing I can do, but if you get spam from roger.j.carlsonATgmailDOTCOM, just put the address in your block list. I still receive email there, but I don't send from that address anymore.

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    6,102
    Use what the viewpoint character would use.

  17. #17
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    lost among the words
    Posts
    30,501
    Personally, I'd go with "the longest cigar POVCHAR had ever seen." That way the reader who's familiar with cigars will get it and the reader who doesn't know a thing about them won't suddenly stop and wonder if that was possible at all. The vast majority of people don't have a clue how long any exact measurement is because they don't use them day-in and day-out, so their mental concept is completely skewed. (I admit to being one of them.)

    I've found that the more exact the detail (particularly if it's correct but an unknown quantity to the general population) is more likely to throw a reader out of a story than something that allows them to make whatever assumptions they're comfortable with and keep reading. Making it a reference to a finger, the height/width of someone/something, or "biggest/smallest ever seen" puts the size into easy perspective without a great deal of work on my part.

    It's even a bonus, since what reference the POV char gives show a bit of their character/personality/mood.
    My blog: Myth Mugger


    Flamechild, the first anthology in the Children of the Vortex series, is now available here.
    Stonechild is a free intro story to the Children of the Vortex series, now available here

    Info on my avatar


  18. #18
    Huh. kkbe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Left of center
    Posts
    4,978
    Knigel: Well, to be honest, this thread was spurred by trying to describe old women sucking on 13 inch cigars.

    No joke.

    . . .I like exaggeration, but for the piece I'm working on, I am trying to use as much realism as possible. I am experimenting in exactness. I'm trying to control all of my usual devices. I'm allowing myself some metaphor and simile, but I'm still trying to restrain that to visual objects.
    Okay. So, "The old women were smoking gecko-sized cigars, not those tiny geckos, and not the really big ones; you know, those medium-sized geckos, somewhere between twelve and fourteen inches long."

    From CHERRY:
    It was a brutal kiss, devastatingly brutal.
    He didn’t fight it.

    /my blog/

    Rep'd by Brent Taylor @ TriadaUS Lit. Agency

  19. #19
    greatest writer of his generation u.v.ray's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    U.K
    Posts
    152
    There was a woman walking her Great Dane in the park. "Jesus Christ," Edmund Grunt exclaimed aloud, nodding towards the stupid, lolloping beast. "The fu*king thing's got a bigger dick than me!"


    Here, from just three simple sentences we, the writer, can demonstrate that Edmund Grunt has what we could probably describe as a small to average sized penis. And whatsmore - he feels insecure about it.

    It's all very simple.

    You're welcome.


    "We Are Glass is a bruising encounter yet it flickers with compassion and is the best short story collection I’ve read since Dan Fante’s Corksucker back in 2005" -- Mark Raison.

    http://www.uvray.moonfruit.com

  20. #20
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    No longer in Cali :(
    Posts
    4,095
    Quote Originally Posted by kkbe View Post
    Okay. So, "The old women were smoking gecko-sized cigars, not those tiny geckos, and not the really big ones; you know, those medium-sized geckos, somewhere between twelve and fourteen inches long."

    That's perfect.

    It also reminds me of my favorite description of size...which was something along the lines of: "They served generous portions of ice cream. Seriously. Each plop of ice cream was as big as a hamster."

    Until now, that's how I describe my ice cream scoops.
    corny: This is the way of the future. Nonsensical fragments and oozingly gross weeping sores of language spilling over the keyboard.

    I feel like corny needs to have a book review site, really.

    Hippo Cartoons
    Twitter

    Repped by M&O

  21. #21
    If the Rule is Broken — Break it. Knigel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Vancouver
    Posts
    80
    Quote Originally Posted by mirandashell View Post
    Hmmm..... the problem I have with reading a description of a '13-inch cigar' is I wouldn't believe it. That's over a foot long! Try putting a ruler in your mouth and controlling it. And then imagine it with one end on fire.

    nah, that would make me roll my eyes and put the book down.

    Apparently you haven't been to Cuba.

    You don't even have to visit one of the cigar factories to see tiny little women puffing on logs that outweigh them.

    https://www.google.ca/search?q=cuban...KaOyiQKwtoGABQ

  22. #22
    I was only joking! Honest! mirandashell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    England
    Posts
    14,659
    No I haven't. Which is why I would eyeroll at the idea.

    But that's just me.
    I wish I was a glow worm. A glow worm's never glum. Cos how you can be grumpy when the sun shines out your bum?

  23. #23
    has no socks JulianneQJohnson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Louisville, KY
    Posts
    1,165
    Quote Originally Posted by Knigel View Post
    Thank you. The reason I want to be exact in sizes is because some things make for better visuals. As I mentioned, the cigars are one thing, but I was also trying to describe geckos that were about the size of my middle finger. Since there are so many different sizes of geckos, I want to differentiate them from others. At the same time, I don't want to use adjectives. I was to show it so that the reader can see it.
    As a reader, I don't care exactly how big that gecko is. Some adjective that means "small" would work for me. If you just have to say how big something is, it's common to use "the length of a finger” or “as big around as my thumb.”. No reader cares that peoples fingers are different lengths. They don’t need to know that the gecko is exactly 2” and 7/8. Other common objects would work as well.
    “It was a king of geckos. The gecko’s head alone was as large as a pack of cards.”
    ***************************

    Pictures and Words- my writing blog


    Leonardo Da Bunni is a chaptered book for early readers.
    Join baby Leo as he discovers works of
    art in the world around him.




  24. #24
    If the Rule is Broken — Break it. Knigel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Vancouver
    Posts
    80
    Quote Originally Posted by mirandashell View Post
    No I haven't. Which is why I would eyeroll at the idea.

    But that's just me.
    To be honest, this is one of the reasons I am going for realism and non-exaggeration. I want to build trust with the reader so that when I say something, they do not roll their eyes because they are aware that it is a fact and not something like hyperbole.

    You do raise a good point that I worry about when I'm writing. For example, in my story, there are two albinos. It seems unlikely that in one day there would be two passing albinos, yet that was the reality of my experience. I think that if I get caught using hyperbole or flowery language previously, the reader can suspect that this information is not true.

    So, for you, how would I communicate 13inch cigars to you so that you don't roll your eyes?

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    6,102
    Quote Originally Posted by Knigel View Post
    So, for you, how would I communicate 13inch cigars to you so that you don't roll your eyes?
    For some readers, you probably can't. But if you write with confidence, and don't set out to prove something is true--and certainly don't have a character question their veracity--many will accept them

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search