Word Painting

by | May 30, 2009 | Fiction Book Reviews | 0 comments

I’ve just started reading Rebecca McClanahan’s book entitled Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively and it reminded me of how far I have to go in my writing 🙂 Even McClanahan’s introduction is beautiful written, creating a picture story while introducing the topic of the book.

The key to writing more descriptively is in engaging the senses and emotions of the reader to such an extent that the reader truly ‘loses’ him/herself in the story. He sees, smells, tastes, touches, hears, and feels what the characters do.

McClanahan’s definition of description is “an attempt to present as directly as possible the qualities of a person, place, object, or event…attempting through language to represent reality. Description is, in effect, word painting.”

We want to make our readers think in pictures…in moving pictures, living a story with the characters.

I think one of the most difficult parts about developing this skill is that you MUST be a good observer. As we watch other people respond to situation, or acknowledge the way we respond to experiences/situations, we learn to describe it more effectively.

McClanahan discusses four basic tenets of word painting:

1. Good description is carefully worded. (directly, precisely, without ‘flowery’ additions).
2. Good description is sensory, making the audience or reader, ‘see things'”
3. Good description represents the fictional dream through word pictures that push the plot or characters along
4. Good description often employs metaphors or other figurative language.

How does your description serve your story? How does it move your plot along and develop your characters? How does it bring your words to life and make them breathe the same breath as the reader?

Like I said in the beginning, I have a long way to go.


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