I like to think that when it comes to writing, my strongest points are on action and dialog. I’m okay with pace and plotting. And fifty-fifty with settings and characters (that one kind of depends on the genre, I suppose.)
But putting the strengths aside, I also know exactly where I’m at my weakest: I find it really difficult to come up with good, convincing descriptions of places and objects.
Part of the reason is that there are so many times where I feel like the reader doesn’t need to be told the surrounding details of a common environment. For example, in a scene where a character is sitting in a bathroom stall, is it really necessary to describe the color of the walls or the size of the toilet? Or for a larger example, say a house, I just assume that the reader knows what a house looks like and the house he conjures up in his head is just as good as the one in mine.
I wonder, however, if my line of thinking is wrong here. Maybe the reader does need to know what color the walls are or how many windows are in the upstairs bedroom. Normally I would say “not unless it affects the outcome of the story,” but maybe I’m wrong. Do details like that actually help bring the story to life?
Let’s assume they do for a moment.
This brings up another concern, however. If you throw in too many descriptions, you run the risk of filling up your story with adjectives and info dumps. There’s also the problem of picking the right descriptions and figuring out which ones will make the most difference to the reader. Colors and numbers don’t really add anything to the story. The reader couldn’t care less about the number of windows in the room, but might care about the types of paintings hanging on the wall.
Anyhow, like I said, descriptions are my weakest point, so I really don’t have a lot of insight to share in this post, but I’m mostly just thinking out loud. But still, it’s something I should really practice.
I am curious to see what some of the other authors out there do to improve this aspect of their writing though, so please leave a comment or send me an email.