?

Log in

Trabia Garden
You May Have Seen A Million Entries About This, But This One Has Pokémon.
Dean Winchester Is Noel Fielding's Girlfriend. 
19th-Feb-2008 09:58 pm
hope is all we have
Oh, Internet. I love that this is a world in which I can write a story with the moral 'some things are more important than not having sex with your brother' and nobody will bat an eyelid. (Other morals of my fics include 'it doesn't matter whether she's in human form or not; having sex with your best friend's dog is never going to have a positive impact on your friendship', 'you can't judge zombies just because they crave human flesh' and 'never let Jeremy Clarkson get his hands on a Charizard'.) Thank you so much for your reviews!

AND NOW IT IS TIME FOR WRITERLY ANGST. Awesome!

Sometimes, I really wish that I could write description. I'm fairly certain that my strongest point in writing is dialogue, and I am generally quite happy with that because character interaction is my favourite thing in the world, but every so often I will read a fic that throws me into a scene and absolutely takes my breath away with its beautiful descriptions.

I've been writing for eight years now, and I have never worked out how to write description. It is an ability that eludes me entirely. When I write, the only things I describe in any detail are the thoughts of the characters, and I limit external descriptions to three words of scene-setting and perhaps a couple of very plain sentences describing some gesture or action. It would be nice to be capable of more than that, I think; I love writing dialogue, but it doesn't create a sense of absorption and being there in the way that really good description does.

Alas.

Share with me your writerly strengths and weaknesses, flist! And then those of you with complementary strengths and weaknesses can give each other advice and you can all become amazing super-writers who are brilliant at everything. Not that some of you aren't already. (Alternatively, you can tell me some of the weirder moral lessons that can be drawn from your fics.)
Comments 
19th-Feb-2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm... I find writing dialogue easiest, because that's how most of my fics begin, I imagine a conversation and the rest builds around it.

When I do write description... this is going to be totally unhelpful, because I do write a moody descripty piece, I hardly ever think about how I write it. It just seems to happen. (I'm really bad at 'making' myself write, even though the results are often ok when I do)

One thing that does help is to have a really clear picture of the scene you want to describe. Not just what it looks like, but what are the little sounds, what does it smell like, how does it feel. You might not have words for it, or describe any of those things in the finished description, but I find it helps get things sorted. If I'm feeling particularly wanky you can think about how certain sounds evoke certain moods. Like lots of sssss are quiet or mysterious or sad. Long vowels are mournful but quick sharp sounds are good for action or hurry.
19th-Feb-2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Don't worry about being unhelpful; I cannot possibly explain how I write dialogue. And this is actually really good advice. Possibly I will try writing an experimental descriptive piece with this in mind.

I think part of the problem may be that I don't have a very visual imagination, which I am inclined to blame on the fact that, although I've been short-sighted since I was born, I didn't have my eyes tested (and so didn't have glasses) until I was seven or so. IT MAKES SENSE TO ME.
19th-Feb-2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
I think I'm kind of the opposite of you. Dialogue causes me ANGST AND WOE. I try and use as little of it as possible. But then, I have been told that my dialogue is always very in-character? I totally don't believe this. I only write EMO DIALOGUE or NOT ENTIRELY EMO DIALOGUE.

I've been told off in the past for trying to wriggle too far inside people's minds. But I like doing that. My fics have zero plot, and are pretty much entirely character analysis, so.

I like description too. Because, I like words. And I like comparisons. My fics are full of "[character x] [verbed] like a [noun]" - too much, I think, but then I can never think of an alternate way of phrasing things. I just think if you can compare something to a totally random something else, it creates a better picture? Like if you say someone's running, well, that's boring. But if you say someone's running like a bat at night, then it kind of conjures up a different image? MAYBE IDK.

MY WEAKNESS IS EDITING BTW. AS IN, I DON'T DO IT. I write the last sentence of a fic, and then send it straight to you without even re-reading it rofl ;__;

/BLAB

P.S. I AM LISTENING TO POKEMON SONGS
19th-Feb-2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
I don't understand how people can avoid dialogue! It is the most fun in the world. And your comparisons are awesome.

P.S. POKÉMON SONGS ARE THE BEST SONGS

P.P.S. I am going to use this icon in every comment I make to you until I deem that you have been punished enough for creating the image in the first place.
19th-Feb-2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
A good way to practice is to just find an interesting picture and write a paragraph about it. Throw all your senses at it, make up some sort of link to a plot that could exist, come up with flowery metaphors and personify the plants. It's a good writing exercise and really helps when including description in stories.

Well, that's how I've been taught, anyway.
19th-Feb-2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
Ooh, that sounds really interesting! I shall give it a try. Thank you!
19th-Feb-2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
I'm totally the opposite - dialogue is a big weakness of mine and description I'm actually really good at. I find RPing helps, of course, and so does writing drabbles - when I had to go into work every day on the train, I took my notebook with me and drabbled for the journey, or just sat and stared into space and wrote down the first plotty idea that came into my head, no matter how daft. I like to almost...taste the environment, to really get my teeth into it and show others how I imagine it. I guess I'm just a really visual person.

Can you also tell I'm hungry? Mmmm, toast...
19th-Feb-2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
I find it really interesting to see how different people have such completely different ways of writing. I carry a notebook or three pretty much everywhere with me already, so perhaps I should start writing visual-description exercises in spare moments of time.

Also, I am so hungry right now and it is all your fault.
19th-Feb-2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
I-I have no idea how to write descriptions, either! Or plots! Or how to start a story! Or end a story! Or write anything at all long! And I am forever jealous of your awesomely in-character and brilliantly snarky dialogue. Please hand over your talent at once. At once.

19th-Feb-2008 10:57 pm (UTC)
Seriously, if somebody would give me some advice on How To Work Out A Plot, or even How To Pay Attention To Plot In Movies And Novels, I would be terribly grateful.
19th-Feb-2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty good at showing what a character's thinking, and I'm lousy at...description, actually. I live in fear of Becoming Too Purple. I'm not too sure how my dialogue skills are. My dialogues range between mediocre and pretty damned good.

Of course, I could be completely wrong and have things the other way around.

Ooh! I have problems with plots. I mean, my plots start out simple, but then get more complicated as I go - the basic beginning, middle and end stay the same, but I add in details. "This bit's too simple. Let's give him a strange not-quite-girlfriend who makes him work in a BDSM club." (Yes. Really. ...actually, I'm sure you won't find that too hard to believe.) So I end up having to trim out details that just make the entire thing a little too surreal.

Moral lessons from my stories? Umm..."it's okay to be a prostitute as long as you're okay with being a prostitute". (Partly because I honestly believe that if both the people involved in the transaction don't think prostitution makes you less of a person, there's really nothing wrong with it.

Um.

I'll just go over here now.)
19th-Feb-2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
I think the fact that 'Let's give him a strange not-quite-girlfriend who makes him work in a BDSM club' didn't even make me raise an eyebrow is a sign that I've known you for too long. (Your writing can be too surreal?)

And, hey, I think that sounds like a perfectly reasonable stance on prostitution.
19th-Feb-2008 11:10 pm (UTC)
Descriptions are evil! I don't think I know how to write them, either. Whenever I try, I end up deleting and rewriting everything at least six times before I give up and go back to original wording. Which I always think is too long and not actually descriptive enough! (I nearly killed myself and ineptmagicuser with the amount of angst I threw about while trying to write the one or two scenes that might actually qualify as having any sort of descriptive writing in GT.)

My other huge weakness is that sometimes characters will slowly start drifting into the realms of OOC, and if I don't catch it quickly, I end up having to rewrite pages and pages. Also, length control (ENOUGH JUST SHUT UP AND END THE STORY GOOD LORD). And writing the middle. So far I've been lucky with endings coming to me, but the middle? Haha, no.

Once I get into the flow of it, though, I think I can do a decent job with dialogue / internal monologues.


...The only weird moral lesson from my fics that I can come up with is, "Sometimes letting the goblin kill you really might be the better idea." Which, admittedly, is pretty weird.
19th-Feb-2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
I find it oddly reassuring when others share my inability to describe.

Also, er, 'Sometimes letting the goblin kill you really might be the better idea'? I can't say I'm not curious.
19th-Feb-2008 11:10 pm (UTC)
Dialogue gives me the heebies, I'm always in awe of folks like you who make it look easy. As for description... I hate being spoonfed details, but on the other hand you need to set a scene, and I always find myself trying to walk that tightrope, terrified of overloading the reader and getting horribly purple, or of putting in so little that people are left scratching their heads. I suppose if I could give one tip, it's blandness checking. Look at things like you're looking at a picture. Why have 'he held onto the rail' when you could have 'bits of old white paint flaked onto his skin as he gripped the rail hard'?

Um... in conclusion, I have no idea. That was useful...
19th-Feb-2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
heee...gripped the rail hard...

*giggle*
19th-Feb-2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
My greatest weakness is with endings - I'm rarely happy with how I end something.
19th-Feb-2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'm kind of the opposite: I can write description almost without even thinking about it, to the degree that I write way, way too much of it, and have to edit masses out because it gets really boring. I fail and fail hard at plot--and I don't even mean a complex and interesting journey of events, I mean ANYTHING HAPPENING IN ANY WAY. I only appear to be able to write scenes on their own. Meanwhile, I'm so busy desperately trying to both get rid of my pointless description and come up with an almost-plot that I barely have time to consider what's going on with the dialogue, and so that just kind of... happens. I really should put more thought into it. (Also, as my prolificness or lack of it attests, I fail at a) starting and b) finishing things anyway, so whether I can do dialogue or description or plot is probably by the by.)
20th-Feb-2008 06:59 am (UTC)
Your dialogue is very good. Very, very good. And I LOVE your description. So there.
19th-Feb-2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Um, I just share your weakness. And then you have people like littlemoose who can write entire lovely ficlets without any dialogue at all but it still makes perfect sense and you don't even realise the dialogue isn't even there!

Also, sex. I am not good at sex scenes, probably because it involves a lot of descriptions.
20th-Feb-2008 12:09 am (UTC)
I'm not aware of being particularly good or bad at description. I think it may be something I'm actually just okay at (as in there's enough so it rounds out the fic, but not striking or impressive).

How visual is the writing process for you? Because the easier it is to picture in your head, the easier it seems to be to describe it.
19th-Feb-2008 11:17 pm (UTC)
I have problems with dialogue and keeping an even tone. The longest fic I have could be a lot better if I'd kept Sam and Annie in character, and watching all those Bollywood films when I was younger has done nothing good for my sense of melodrama.

As it is, I have a tardis_bigbang fic to finish in a few weeks- must put chunks up on my journal beforehand- and Pokemon music reminds me that I wanted to send you some modern rock-ish stuff and forgot :O *fiddles with e-mail*

Aaaand i can't seem to add Windows media player files to my email. Perhaps I shall try with iTunes tomorrow. (And please don't feel like I'm going out of my way; I like lending people CDs or burning a copy for them.)

Edited at 2008-02-20 01:04 am (UTC)
19th-Feb-2008 11:17 pm (UTC)
I am Very Bad at plot. Especially when writing things longer than, say, a few thousand words. I lose all sense of pacing and I suspect it all becomes very boring and wordy and dull.

Description = a thing that I can do. Probably because I have a very visual sort of brain. Everything I write is basically the book-of-the-film of what there is in my head, and I love to play around with the words and see how best I can bring across exactly what it is I'm seeing. Atmosphere is my favourite thing to do. IDK HOW TO ADVISE YOU THOUGH. Try writing descriptively about some scenes in films?
19th-Feb-2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
Ah, so you're a film-in-your-head thing? That is so amazing. I kinda have a book-on-tape-in-my-head, but with some picturey stuff.
19th-Feb-2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
I am good at EVERYTHING by which I mean I am good at coming up with cool scenes and awesome ideas? Though draegonhawke insists I'm lousy at tying anything together and I have the attention span of a gnat, but pssshw, se's just jealous. And obsessed with LOGICAL PLOT PROGRESSION what's that about. Laaame.
19th-Feb-2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
HI RIONA I'M SPAMMING YOUR LJ AND TALKING TO YOUR FRIENDS.

The word for 'no logical plot progression' is "avant-garde" or possible "postmodern". I can see you're really being very clever but are just too modest to tell us.
19th-Feb-2008 11:42 pm (UTC)
My big weakness; sex. I tend to cover for it by making so many other things go on during the sex bits that it balances out. But I have some difficulty, and a great deal of dislike for writing sex scenes. Which is a problem, because sometimes I get really cool fic ideas that need sex to work.

Also, writing very short fic. They tend to run longer than I intended. Drabbles are extremely difficult, and trying to keep it down to a few pages is a chore.

Writing pairings that I ship big time. Because I'm weird. I'm good with pairings I sort-of ship, but when I'm really into them, I can't.

Strengths; I've got a good ear for dialogue. I'm good at characterization. I tend to come up with bucketloads of plot at the drop of a hat (seriously, don't drop a hat). I can be funny. I'm good at understated angst where everything's so much worse than the character's actions would seem to suggest. I can do decent interior monologue. I have a really weird imagination. I don't squick easily. I watch character's body language enough that I can pick up on what it actually looks like, not just fanon from other fic. I can do happy stuff that doesn't lack depth, and dark stuff that's not unrelentingly bleak.

Basically, I rock.
19th-Feb-2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Man, it'd seem arrogant if it weren't completely true. Your writing is brilliant.
19th-Feb-2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
I feel the same way! Dialogue comes really easily to me - I think it's because I RP a lot - but description, ARGGGH! I find it so difficult! What I try to do is, if I see something, try to write a description of it, ie. it was snowing one day, so I sat by my window and wrote what I saw. I think I'm quite lucky in that I've got an insanely visual imagination - I see my stories/scenes as a 'movie' first, THEN write them down, so I just try to describe what I see, but it's insanely hard!
19th-Feb-2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
I don't know if my dialogue is good because I can't find it. It's lost in these TEN PAGES about how everyone REALLLY FEEELS and description of EVERYTHING. I'm convinced that draegonhawke will one day just take a big red marker to a draft, circle 90% of the page and just write "...srsly?"

I should stop reading Tolstoy all the damn time because it's like having your stuff workshopped by your doting grandma. "I love hearing about non sequiter world-building and over done metaphors too, dearie! Eat more cookies and add more emo wibbling, you're too thin!"

Also I wish I wrote better sex scenes. And I know I need more Things Happening and less 'womg, teh characterz!'? But no. You can't make me plot. Neener.
20th-Feb-2008 12:00 am (UTC)
I am apparently good at characterisation, and sprawlingbigplots. I am stupendously bad at planning things out from the beginning, though; it usually takes me a third of the way through a fic to get to any sort of point, and usually by the time I hit the end I find out that the fic I began and the fic I ended are radically different. Also, expositondumping. God, the expositiondumping I do. Every time I go back to revise one of my ofics I stare at it and go "Yeah, magi, these are cool concepts, but... shouldn't you maybe have a story to go along with them at some point?"
20th-Feb-2008 12:07 am (UTC)
Aaah, I know what you mean :/
20th-Feb-2008 12:01 am (UTC)
Fun fact! I used to be pretty bad at descriptions. It was like, "setting? Wazzat?" A few of the professors here blamed it on fanfiction--after all, if you're working in settings everyone already knows, you don't need to develop the skills to describe it.

I'm, er, still not sure what I'm doing most of the time, but I have at least a few ideas more. (I was also helped by things like Holly Lisle's articles on how to write, especially things like the visualisation exercise.)

Interactive descriptions are good. Overarching descriptions – and lo, there was this, and also this, and a that stood off in the corner – are good if done well, but a lot of time we want to know what characters are moving through. How the wooden railing feels beneath X's hand, or the way the gravel crunches over Y's boot. If there are noises in the background, or if it smells like anything in particular. (Also, they're great mood-reinforcers.)

If it's not just description in a vacuum, if the characters actually put something to use, that helps too. So, Quistis walked to one of the polished balustrades, taking stock of the situation in the reflection. rather than The balcony was ringed by polished balustrades.

It's like Stealth Description, slipped in under pretext of action tags. Having characters who fiddle with things or try to distract themselves from awkward conversations is also really helpful.

Also, sort of the flipside to that, have things happening while you're describing.

[Approaching midnight, when he's concluded a scathing critique on 2341 Château Moutons, he tells the boy to bring a folding chair up onto the deck and goes up himself to breathe the cold air. At this altitude it's oxygen-rich enough to support them, but still bitterly cold. He likes it.

The boy is gone a long time, which is unusual because folding chairs are neither that heavy nor that uncommon. The Master occupies himself by walking along the circumference of the vast deck--the landing strips and two drydocks, the heatshields which prevent updrafts from the engines from sweeping across the deck. He walks along the bits he designed personally, where the rivets, unbeknownst to anyone but him, spell out Gallifreyan curses or jokes or formulae.
]

Senses other than sight are great, too. Sight is the expected one, so when you start whipping out non-sight things, it's surprising and engaging. And shuffling your descriptors--as long as it's not overused--adds a bit of extra pop to descriptions; describing a sound as wooly or a colour as sour or so on. Invoking synaesthesia is often a good thing. There was that time in Jessamine when I described a sunset in words that were evocative for their colours, but were more evocative for other reasons:

[I found her that morning on a balcony, watching the eastern sky. "They say the dawns were red once," she said.

"Blood and plum and apricot," I agreed.
]

What is it with me and balconies?

And drawing in metaphors, as long as they're supported by the mood. So, a wide dusk bruise all down his arm rather than a wide, dark bruise.

And even when something doesn't make a huge amount of logical sense, sometimes the emotional sense will carry it:

[Days of fever, cold fingers across his forehead and a voice that was not his own, melted slowly to the back of Sam's mind. In their place came flecks of other senses: oil smoke, rough brown walls, weight and fur against his skin. He had vague recollections of light and dogs and fear, but they were distant--the world was cool on his face and flickering.]

How is the world flickering? Are they really flecks of senses? On a literal level, we don't care. It conveys the sense of what's going on, and that's what you need to get across. Give people a bit to imagine, and they'll imagine a lot for you.

...did I just spend way too much time pretending I know what I'm talking about? I totally did, didn't I. WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY-SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING.
20th-Feb-2008 12:28 am (UTC)
Well, I think my description skills can fall a bit flat sometimes; they just don't ooze that poetic vision that some books/fics have.

And sometimes, I think my dialogue (stop telling me that word does not exist, firefox spellcheck) is unrealistic or clunky.

I'm pretty sure that leaves me with...thoughts and, um, words.

My NaNoWriMo half-novel seems to tell the reader that it is okay to quit your job and act immature, as long as you meet strange, eccentric men who ~inspire you.
20th-Feb-2008 12:31 am (UTC)
Weird Morals:

- If Jeremy Clarkson is trying to build things, stand quite a long ways away.

- Carsex: Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

- If you fancy one of your co-workers, giving his worst enemy a blowjob may not be the best approach to hooking up with him, but it works.

- As long as you don't actually get violated, giant rapist rabbits are fun!

- Watch out for lonely angels that take you out of time.

ETA: Also, some really are Boojums.

Edited at 2008-02-20 12:31 am (UTC)
20th-Feb-2008 12:42 am (UTC)
Strengths? I've gotten a lot better at editing for flow and brevity in a technical sense. I used to go on and on, abusing ellipses and worse, now I mercilessly hack stuff like that away in a final draft...I think writing a crapload of action stuff for an AIM-based fighting RPG helped :p. I've also gotten better at knowing where to end stuff, at least when I can think of an ending.

Editing as a whole. I really do like cleaning up raw text, getting it to flow and work how I wanted.

Shorts. I like shorts and drabbles.

Weak points? Description, a lot like you said. I have trouble connecting the words on the page to what's in my head...making the reader feel more like they're there. Especially in an emotional sense. I'll get the dialogue and the basics, but the feelings otherwise as shown by description of what's going on...gak. Fail.

I'm also incredibly slow, because my inner editor likes to kill my first drafts.

Anything longer with a plot. My brain does not want to make complex plots, brain wants to capture the moment and be done! The problem is when the moment is one that requires plot and backing around it...
22nd-Feb-2008 08:46 am (UTC)
I am a late responder, oh dear. Sorry! I try to make a point of responding to people when they comment for the first time, just so you know you're not talking to a brick wall.

Not - not that I never respond to people after the first comment. I, er.

What I am trying to say is 'hello, and welcome to my journal!' Yes. Hello! (And attempting plot is the worst thing ever. If I actually try to write a fic plan, it just ends up as a lot of scenes I think would be awesome, strung together by the flimsiest premise in the world.)
20th-Feb-2008 01:37 am (UTC)
I find that I generally suck at plot. I generally want to have a Main Plot (ie. Zombie Invasion of the World) alongside the Pairing Plot (ie. running away from these zombies has made us realise our deep and undying love for each other!) I can do the pairing, not so much the other one. It's very annoying. My dialogue would be fine if I'd learn to edit (I go back weeks later and think "Oh god, they would never say that! Why did I post this?! Why did I not ask for a beta?!! WHY?!! *dramatic faint*) I dream of being able to write dialogue like yours because it's *awesome* and hilarious.

Description-wise though, I think I'm totally the wrong person to talk to because I'm okay (with a big red 'could try harder' scrawled over that) at it but usually write it at 3am while hyped up on caffeine and sleep deprivation; I couldn't tell you how I do it, even if you promised me Hammond and his Porsche as my slaves for a week (though I'll accept that anyway. Mmm.) Instead I'll do what I always do and point you towards seperis' webpage of fic. She writes some of the most beautiful description ever, things like There's a car curled up like a sleeping cat outside the barn. and He likes how Clark falls asleep, in this tangled ball of limbs and skin and sheet. Likes how Clark's always touching him, like he can't quite sleep without it, sometimes nothing more than the butterfly pressure of fingertips on his chest, a hand wrapped around his arm, a forehead against his shoulder. Likes the little snores and the shivers just beneath the skin and the way Clark curls up closer when it's cold. My favourite thing about it isn't only the pretty words but that it's all done as part of the story; there's no "and now have a paragraph of description about this house we have entered"; it's all dynamic, moving the characters and plot along while being really pretty at the same time. I think that's the trick of really excellent description. I wish I could do it. *wistful*
20th-Feb-2008 05:43 am (UTC)
I've been writing for eight years now, and I have never worked out how to write description.

Take heart. I've been writing (ish) since I was about eleven and I only figured it out last year. That's more than ten bastard years. I got it down by doing NaNoWriMo and basically just saying what I saw in my head - all of it, every last detail - in an attempt to pad out the word count. That helps. Then you just cut about 90% of that.

When I write, the only things I describe in any detail are the thoughts of the characters, and I limit external descriptions to three words of scene-setting and perhaps a couple of very plain sentences describing some gesture or action.

Actually it seems like that's what most people are looking for. You look at life, people treat locations as backdrops against which drama can take place, and don't really pay them much mind. Pat Barker (my hero!) does quite well to induce an entire sense of place with very few words indeed. She only really describes things when they come into contact with the characters.

Share with me your writerly strengths and weaknesses, flist!

Pacing, plot progression and reaching a decent crescendo are apparently beyond me. I also cannot write characters who sound different from each other and my descriptive vocabulary is enormously limited and repetitive.

My moral lessons tend to be "it's okay to fuck your dad" or "women are evil". It's best not to look too closely at what I write, really.
20th-Feb-2008 07:02 am (UTC)
Pacing. I can't do pacing. It cocks up almost every plot I attempt and makes me burn. I have worked damn hard on bringing my description up to speed and now, mostly, I can be very happy with it. But dialogue and characterisation will always be my strength, I think.
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
This page was loaded Jul 21st 2017, 8:33 pm GMT.