Re: RE: How would you write this?

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Jeff, I think when it comes to description, less is always more. This is especially true when describing people. Cite a few “telling details” and let the reader fill in the rest, because s/he is going to anyway, no matter how many details you supply. I personally hate wardrobe inventories, so if I mention what my character is wearing, I always make sure it serves some higher purpose: it illuminates character or it’s symbolic or something. Because when you stop to think about it, who really cares what a character is wearing? I sure don’t, and I always groan when a writer feels obligated to inflict that sort of description on me.

The only thing I would be careful about: if the character wears glasses or has a beard or something like that, don’t wait too long to let the reader know. Otherwise s/he will picture him without glasses or facial hair and be really annoyed when s/he has to revise the mental image.

As for describing setting, you of course have to somehow make the place come alive for the reader, but that doesn’t mean a detailed description of the sort you might find in a travel guidebook. And yes, here’s where it is important to invoke the other senses.

One book I have found helpful in this regard is “Word Painting” by Rebecca McClanahan (it’s also beautifully written, something you can’t always say about writing books). One writer told her that he always tried to invoke all five senses on every page. Even she thought this was overdoing it. Yes, invoke senses other than the visual, but don’t get carried away or it’ll start to sound labored and artificial.