Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Role of Descriptions in a Literary Text

by Lucy Adams


Descriptions require full dedication, masterful treatment of the language (stylistics, dynamics, means of expression, etc.), and deep understanding of the text structure. Roughly speaking, they are a litmus paper for any writer.

Any part of the text, including descriptions, always performs a specific function, and sometimes more than one. So let’s shed some light on the moments that any novice author should pay attention to when working on descriptions.

#1 Bright and Relatable Picture

The first challenge that you’ll face is arranging the text in such a way that the reader can navigate it and imagine the events, places, and people. If you are able to create a colorful movie in the reader’s imagination while saving the proper sequence of actions and using emotionally meaningful words, your book will likely be in demand.

#2 Atmosphere

As most readers are looking for new experiences rather than knowledge, the emotional component of your writing is crucial.

You may think that descriptions have little to do with this, but they are extremely important for creating needed atmosphere. Moreover, that’s the atmosphere that attracts readers so much is some literary genres such as horror.


#3 Anchors of Perception

I often read books in which authors use a large number of characters. Let’s take, for example, in "A Song of Ice and Fire," George R. R. Martin uses up to a thousand characters that allow him to achieve a colorful and believable picture of events.

However, if it’s done clumsily, the reader will be constantly confused. Note that unlike you (who know the plot perfectly), the reader meets the characters for the first time. Here the biggest challenge is to create unique descriptions for characters by attaching at least one bright detail to each one. This detail is the anchor of perception that catches the reader's attention and ideally, should be deposited in the subconscious, creating the needed connection "the detail – the character."

#4 A Few More Pages

Vivid descriptions will help you to increase the number of pages of your book, which is always necessary to fit the requirements of the publishing house. Once you have invented an idea, you can develop it up to a needed volume, getting the desired fee.

Many pen wizards just fill the gaps with descriptions of towns, people, weather, nature, etc. Take and adopt this technique, as that will fill the number of pages for your book that your publishing house requires.

Long empty descriptions may decrease the quality of the narrative. Note that different scenes have different dynamics (for example, scenes of chases and fights are fast; scenes of conversations are slow). There are some exceptions, as always, but by extending the description, you can control the dynamics of the scene.
   
Descriptions without Clearly Defined Functions

There are many examples of descriptions that are not clearly defined. Although this is typical for beginners, below there are two issues with this that we can observe in the texts of already established authors.

Let me begin with the descriptions of nature. They appeared in oral folklore and literature. It’s nothing against cool breeze and squirrels bouncing on the branches – sometimes that’s quite to the point. But when I read about a group of brave heroes moving away from the pursuit and stumble upon the description of cool breeze and warm summer sun, I’m out at sea.

Such inconsistencies occur if the author doesn’t really feel the mood of the scene. For sure, evil can happen in good weather, but the laws of drama demand a different approach. Also, monotonous descriptions of the fields, meadows, and undergrowth are so clichéd that they are hardly perceived. Then I say to myself: "Well, here the author didn't know how to start the scene and so he put in this wonderful description of nature. Well done!"

The second unpleasant thing is the description of the appearance. Of course, if I were sitting on the porch of my estate two hundred years ago, I wouldn’t wonder about a three-page description of a noble lord. But the pace of life in those days was much slower than it is today! Alas, today’s novices often imitate the manner of good old writers. Let me remind you of the fact that actions, reactions, and emotions – not the detailed description of the nose – contribute to the authenticity of the character.

I wish you all the best in your writing endeavors and hope that bright and unique descriptions will help you to stand out.


Bio: Lucy Adams is a blogger and essay writer. She’s always looking for new acquaintances and cooperation. Lucy is a generalist, and that’s why she never has problems with covering a wide range of topics, from psychology to hi-tech. Share your ideas with the blogger, and soon you’ll get a high-quality article or a few for free.