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Darzian
09-20-2008, 09:41 AM
Most books have several scenes where the story is moving really really fast. Eg the climax, or any other scene where there is a confrontation etc...

In such scenes, I generally find it very annoying when the writer maintains his level of description. I would prefer it if details dropped a little during such scenes, so that we can actually see what is happening.

I'm keeping that in mind with my current WIP, but I want some opinions, in case I'm the only guy alive who thinks like this.

A perfect example would be Rober Jordan's Wheel of Time. Even during climaxes, he is describing the clothing, the hair style, the number of clouds in the sky etc.... while what I want is action!

I like the description during the rest of the book where the pacing is more normal, but at high pacing I don't like it much.

In Harry Potter the description is somewhat low anyway, so this is not an issue there.
PS: I'm speaking more about YA (and fantasy at that) but I thought this would apply to all genres to some extent.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Beach Bunny
09-20-2008, 10:38 AM
If the story is moving fast then I'll skim over the descriptions that aren't tied into the action. It is rather annoying to do that. I'm always afraid that I'll skim over something important, but too much yada yada yada and I want to scream "Enough! I don't care what the MC is wearing."

qwerty
09-20-2008, 11:50 AM
I just hate descriptions of clothes. Like Beach Bunny, I don't care what a character is wearing, I want to know what they are doing, feeling, and why. If I want to show someone is wearing shorts (because I want to convey it's warm weather and he's dressed casually) I say something like: He slipped his keys into his shorts pocket. Then get on with the action.

I like an idea of a setting, enough to be able to feel yourself there, but detailed description irritates me. As do descriptions of people. I don't want to be told she has long hair and wears it loose, that can be shown in a sentence which says she flicked her hair over her shoulder.

I once threw a book across the room because every room the MC entered was described, and what she was wearing when she entered it. Arhggg! If you're told someone sits in a sagging armchair and scuffs her toe on a threadbare rug, you just know she's in a shabby room.

Puma
09-20-2008, 05:27 PM
In my opinion, writers need description at the beginnings of stories to help readers visualize the characters, the settings, and the situation. When the story advances, there should be a minimal amount of description unless it's essential to the upcoming story (i.e., if a main characters is going to get helplessly snagged on a branch because of a floppy blouse, it's good to know she's wearing a floppy blouse before it happens.) As the action builds to the climax, there should be almost no description - just the action and the dialogue. Puma

Talkatoast
09-20-2008, 05:33 PM
During fast moving scenes, I get annoyed by writing description, so I tend to avoid that. I mean, sometimes I'll be writing a fast moving scene and I'll wonder if the reader wants some description. Then, when I go through and read it, I'll realize that the description is just going to pull the reader out of the story and confuse him or her. I mean, I'll describe like this: She took her white hand and slapped the protagonist. But I won't do this: She took her white hand, (her nails were painted red) which was oddly shaped and glowed like gossamer wings in the moonlight, coupled with long fingers, and slapped the protagonist. Okay, that's just pointless and poorly written.

I'll describe the setting before I jump into the action, but sometimes I'll add setting descript throughout, because the setting can really help the action along.

Take this for example:

Protagonist and Antagonist are fighting each other. Up ahead, thunder rumbled across the sky and rain fell in heavy sheets, making the struggle between A and B more difficult. The sky above darkened, filling with thick, black rain clouds. Characters A and B couldn't see each other anymore.

citymouse
09-20-2008, 05:39 PM
I leave descriptions out unless they are important to understanding the the character. In my trilogy my MC retains a very young appearance. This impacts how people related to him and also how he feels about himself.

I do describe interior and exteriors in depth if they are important. For example if I have a fight in a small room I draw a diagram and place people and furniture (if any) in relation to one another. That way I can add sound, sight, touch, feeling, and even taste in a way that leads the reader along with the action. Then I simply close my eyes, imagine being a spider on the wall watching the action play out. Then I write it out. Rarely is a rewrite necessary when I do this.
C

Exir
09-20-2008, 05:56 PM
Protagonist and Antagonist are fighting each other. Up ahead, thunder rumbled across the sky and rain fell in heavy sheets, making the struggle between A and B more difficult. The sky above darkened, filling with thick, black rain clouds. Characters A and B couldn't see each other anymore.

Bold mine.

tehuti88
09-20-2008, 06:56 PM
You know, it's actually something I've never really thought about. I hope this is a good sign, that I'm not even thinking about describing everything when my characters are in the middle of intense action! :D

I like description--the more unique and lyrical the writer's voice, the better, because honestly, some people really CANNOT describe a landscape and make it interesting, but a select few can--including of clothing and characters and scenery and whatnot. I like to be able to see the story. (Especially landscapes. I'm a landscape freak.) Just not paragraphs and paragraphs of it, because the more description there is, the more the reader is going to focus on THAT particular thing as being hugely important to the plot, when it actually might not be. (I spent a good deal of time on a necklace in an early chapter of mine, a necklace which was not meant to show up ever again, and a reader said, "I know that necklace is going to show up again with how much time you spent on it!" So of course, I had to write it back into the story...)

In the middle of a fight or other high action, for the most part, it's really not important what the character is wearing (unless somebody grabs him by his bear-claw necklace and attempts to strangle or gash at him with it, or if he trips on the long fringe of his leggings, ha ha!), or what the scenery looks like (unless they're about to plummet over a cliff into a canyon full of jagged spiky rocks, or the clouds are bursting open and slickening the ground with rain so one fighter is about to trip in the mud and DIE DIE DIE!), so yes, description at times of high action, unless it's REALLY relevant to what's going on, should be minimized.

(There are occasional exceptions--I had a scene where a character was getting shot, and for the MC it was like everything slowed down and became clearer for a brief instant--she noticed the detail in everything--but that's not typical. Immediately after she recovered, everything burst into action and I'm fairly certain the description went out the window.)

But as I said this is something I never tended to think of so...*crosses fingers!* :D

ETA: Whoa, weird. I didn't even read the previous post about the rain making the fight difficult before posting my own scenario! :o

Darzian
09-20-2008, 07:24 PM
Looks like it has finally dawned in the US :D


Thanks for the great responses. I'm going to do as I am then.

Talkatoast
09-20-2008, 10:30 PM
Honestly, it's not even possible for me to describe during fast pace, unless there's something important. But I do it in short bursts so it doesn't tear the reader out of the action.

Just do what you feel is best for your writing. It differs for everyone.

GLAZE_by_KyrstinMc
09-20-2008, 10:58 PM
They're hard to write as well! I have a part of my story where a girl gets hit by a bus, and it's confusing to know how to time it!

Ugawa
09-20-2008, 11:00 PM
I also can't stand alot of description in action scenes. I always make sure detail is at its low when i write these scenes.

XX


They're hard to write as well! I have a part of my story where a girl gets hit by a bus, and it's confusing to know how to time it!

I kno what you mean, i don't want it to be too quick. But i also don't want to drag it on. I guess you can just do your best in these situations.

XX

Karen Duvall
09-20-2008, 11:24 PM
So much happens in an action scene that it's hard not to include some description to have the action make sense. And not just description, but character thoughts and dialog as well. I've read way too many scenes from manucripts where the new writer has forgotten to include the thoughts and feelings of the characters acting and being acted upon. It makes the work read like a screenplay, which is great if that's what you're writing. Not so great in narrative fiction. Though there needs to be a balance for all of it to work together. Too much of any one thing -- action, description, internalizations, dialog -- will make a scene lopsided.

Kirby
09-21-2008, 12:29 AM
If the description doesn't move the story forward, I leave it out. If my characters are on a journey, we will see what they're seeing at times, but only to set a mood, time, and place. I hope that I don't get in too much trouble here for saying this, but as much as I enjoy the plot for "The Lord of the Rings," there is just too much description in the books for me to handle. I know that Tolkien has been celebrated for turning the environment into a character, but it's just not to my taste. I enjoy stories that do not have laundry lists of what people look like and how their living room is decorated.

Darzian
09-22-2008, 05:51 AM
If the description doesn't move the story forward, I leave it out. If my characters are on a journey, we will see what they're seeing at times, but only to set a mood, time, and place. I hope that I don't get in too much trouble here for saying this, but as much as I enjoy the plot for "The Lord of the Rings," there is just too much description in the books for me to handle. I know that Tolkien has been celebrated for turning the environment into a character, but it's just not to my taste. I enjoy stories that do not have laundry lists of what people look like and how their living room is decorated.


I feel the same way. There is just a little too much and is there were less, a greater proportion of the audience would have been satisfied. The plot was fantastic, and JRRT could have nailed it perfectly with a little less.

That said, I must say that JRRT doesn't put in unnecessary detail during fast action. Note that paragraph immediately after the ring is destroyed, where he just describes the destruction of Mordor in less than a para. That was fantastic.

Edmontonian
09-22-2008, 07:18 PM
Hi Darzian,

The only time I describe things during an action scene is to add to the picture I am painting in the readers mind, for example, you describe the snow and the trees in the forest, to illustrate how the raiders are progressing toward their intended target; you describe their clothes and face and arms, to show that they have been injured or are scared or are laughing the danger off.

In short, things that will help the story.

Then, once you have sold a million books, you can do whatever you want :-)

Thanks,

ED

Bufty
09-22-2008, 07:44 PM
Interrupting an action scene to describe the snow and the trees in the forest? Yuk - I know what snow on trees looks like.

It's preferable to show what the characters are doing within the environment rather than stopping to describe the environment


Hi Darzian,

The only time I describe things during an action scene is to add to the picture I am painting in the readers mind, for example, you describe the snow and the trees in the forest, to illustrate how the raiders are progressing toward their intended target; you describe their clothes and face and arms, to show that they have been injured or are scared or are laughing the danger off.

In short, things that will help the story.

Then, once you have sold a million books, you can do whatever you want :-)

Thanks,

ED

Edmontonian
09-22-2008, 08:38 PM
Hi Bufty,

Tell me, right away, how does a small forest by Pigeon Lake in Alberta look in late October? What trees are there? How thick are they? What cover do they offer? Can they be run over by a Land Rover? What about the bushes? How much shelter do they provide? and so on and so on...

ED

Bufty
09-22-2008, 08:57 PM
Show me how the characters and/or their vehicle react to and/or interact with the environment.


Hi Bufty,

Tell me, right away, how does a small forest by Pigeon Lake in Alberta look in late October? What trees are there? How thick are they? What cover do they offer? Can they be run over by a Land Rover? What about the bushes? How much shelter do they provide? and so on and so on...

ED

FennelGiraffe
09-22-2008, 09:17 PM
If you're using a focused POV--1st or limited 3rd--test every scrap of description against whether the POV char would be noticing that right now. In an action scene, his attention will be on what's happening and on planning his next move. He'll only notice things around him as they relate to his immediate situation. Nothing else should be described. If it's truly important for the reader to know the snow-covered trees are there, then have the char notice them before the action gets heavy. But most of the time they aren't all that important.

With omniscient, you lose that constraint. Your narrator has the freedom to look at the trees instead of the action. You can, however, choose to assume he's deeply interested in the action, watching it closely, thus creating a similar constraint on his attention.

Phaeal
09-22-2008, 10:09 PM
Seconding Karen: It is details on how the POV character (or characters) are thinking and feeling that really enrich an action scene. The reader's sense of flatness will be exacerbated if the penetration into the POV's mind was deep prior to the action, then shallow or nonexistent during the action.

This doesn't mean you stop to insert long paragraphs of reaction. Snatches mixed in with description of the action will work wonders.

In first or third person limited narration, what you describe during the action is only what the POV character could reasonably observe under the stress of a confrontation or disaster. For example, the POV character is tearing through the woods with a monster in close pursuit. I doubt she's going to be cataloguing the various types of trees and flowers she's passing -- her attention's going to be on her immediate escape route and those snapping jaws at her heels.

If she's worried about the heels of her Blahniks, I'm probably moving on. Few but Joss Whedon can pull off this kind of humor.