My C Word Method of Character Creation is responsible for this! Couldn’t help myself!
I’m well into this semester’s teaching at the University of Queensland and am drowning in a whole lot of adjective-plagued setting description that is driving me to distraction. As writers we need to ground the reader in the world of the story by describing the setting.
But how can we do this without just piling on the adjectives?
Here is another lesson from screenplay – SHOW US WITH ACTION or in this case DOING WORDS! (D word!)
I’ve recently finished reading Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, one of my favourite writers, as much for the strength of her prose as the interesting topics she chooses and the compelling nature of her stories. Here is a random sample of setting description from Booth.
Yes, a couple of adjectives, but mostly Fowler shows us what people are DOING. Even the plants are DOING something. The sun is shining. The tulip trees are coming into bloom.
Children chase each other. Everyone and everything is moving. Verbs abound! By doing this the author creates a scene that we can imagine, that we “see” with our mind’s eye, and a setting that feels real and contemporary, even though this scene is set in the 1860s.
She shows rather than tells us what is in the park. She could have just said: He went to the park and there were green trees, and it was a sunny day. It was pretty busy with people.
But she didn’t. Thank goodness!
THE D WORD METHOD OF DESCRIPTION
Good DESCRIPTION is made up of specific sensory DETAILS and DOING WORDS.
Remember a place you’ve been to – a park like this, or a beach, or a forest, or a party, or a classroom, or a shopping centre – and write a paragraph of DESCRIPTION using primarily DOING WORDS. See if you can avoid using any adjectives or adverbs at all. Instead create a list almost of people, animals and plants in ACTION.
Set a timer for five minutes and go for it!
Now do the same thing but for a place you’re unfamiliar with, another planet, or some kind of fantasy world, or futuristic or historical setting. Practice world building through describing actions.
Set your timer and write like the wind!
SETTING IN STORIES
Whenever you read, look for examples of how writers you admire establish setting in their stories. Look for the verbs. Look for specific details and nouns. When you’ve found a great passage, use it as inspiration to practice writing something similar.
Thank you Karen Joy Fowler for being an inspiration and a joy to read.
Good luck with your writing projects. Hope the D word method helps!
Let me know how you go with your prompts.
Lots of love