Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Write It Out Wednesday: Description

So I just barely made the noon CST deadline for the 2011 Norman Mailer Writing Award. It's open to teachers nationwide and includes 20 single spaced pages of your writing. I entered my YA novel (currently unpublished), Accepting Ellie.

Juding is based on "how well they (writers) achieve several qualities, including the artful treatment of subject matter, originality, quality of insight, voice, and style, and overall aesthetic, emotional, or intellectual effect."
That's a ton of pressure! But the grand prize is $10,000, a trip to New York for a November gala, and a writing fellowship during the summer of 2012! A girl can hope, right?

We're in the market for a new car, so the cash would go to great use!

Even though I'm imagining what all that money would look like floating through the air, what I really want to talk about is description. One of the tricks I use to really describe a person is to Google images of people on the web. This might be cheating, but it certainly helps me. Here is a picture of Kat, my main character's best friend:
I don't expect my readers to envision this exact girl, but I hope they come close.
If you need inspiration for characters, searching images on the web is a good place to start. You can build an entire story from a picture.

It's difficult to describe an object or event in a way that's unique. We have a million cliches, but avoiding those is key. Nobody wants to read a cliche- the lines that stick with a person long after the last page is turned are ones that make him/her see an object from a new perspective. (By the way, you'll see a couple more him/hers- getting back into the use of correct English for my classes!)

Here are some of my descriptions that one of my proofers, Kelly, really enjoyed in my first 11 chapters.
*Tip* If you're asked to edit someone's work, make sure to highlight the things you love along with the critique! It will make the author smile and give him/her hope that he/she is going in the right direction.

At the airport:

I tell him I love him as luggage whirrs around in a circle.

At a funeral home:

I’d lose myself in a place like this, dealing with the end of life every day.
 About a corpse:
I can’t read anything on her face full of freckles, not peace, not pain. Emotion has fled, leaving behind a straight line for a mouth.
This coldness, ten times worse than the new spot of bare bedroom floor in my room, tingles up my back and down my arms, forgetting to exit through my fingertips. 
On kneeling and standing in a Catholic church:
If I did this every Sunday, I’d never need to visit the gym. I also might develop early onset arthritis from using my knees in excess.

A brother reading a eulogy:
Steve’s a balloon that someone put a hole in, the air slowly deflating his shape.
On blood:
The mixture zigzags down the drain like a racing raindrop on a windshield.
What Grandma Jean says:
“It’ll do you some good to refamiliarize yourself with your maker."
    “Sadie Louise! We’re in a church parking lot. That’s pretty close to God. Choose your next words carefully.”
You can see my novel doesn't have a happy beginning...
Anyone else have tips on description?

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