No, I’m not talking about Global Thermonuclear War. (Geek points and ether-cookies to those who get the reference!)
Last week, we took advantage of our sons’ extra week of vacation and the killer winter rates and snuck in a post-holidays holiday in Santa Cruz, spending five unseasonably warm (even for that area) days on the beach. We shared a rental house with some friends, and on the first night, everyone crowded the deck to watch the dramatic sunset pictured above. My husband asked me, “So, how would you describe this?”
My response: “A dozen different ways.”
It sounds like a coy response, with a smattering of smartass mixed in, and it was partly that. But it was also true. Depending on the tone and nature of the story and the mood of my protagonist, that sunset could be seen – and described – in several different ways. Plot could factor in, too. What’s happening here? A romantic encounter? Some sort of dire warning from above? A moment of contemplation?
Description is a powerful thing. Too much of it and your writing becomes bogged down, leaving your readers bored or snoring; not enough of it and readers aren’t as pulled in – as invested – in your world or your characters’ experiences as they might otherwise be.
It’s like a sword. You can hone it and wield it like a master, or you can swing it in wild choppy motions and end up cutting off your foot. As writers, we have tools for painting word pictures – adjectives and adverbs, metaphors, similes, the occasional analogy. We can come at description directly, setting the scene, or we can come at it from the side, filtering it through the emotional responses of our protagonist(s). However we choose to approach it, we should do it with grace. Like good swordsmanship, this requires practice. But it doesn’t have to be dull. We’re creative folks, and words were made to be played with.
So, here’s the game:
Describe the sunset. You don’t have to be a writer to play, anyone can chime in. The photo credits are mine, the word credits are yours. Feel free to use the description or the imagery inspired by the picture in your own work, now or whenever.
Format is open, too. Poetry, prose, a list of descriptors. If you’re a screenplay aficionado, you might begin with:
EXT. A SEASIDE RESIDENCE – SUNSET
Take it away folks. Let’s see what you’ve got!!