THE D WORD METHOD OF DARN GOOD DESCRIPTION

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!)

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

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.

Paragraph 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!

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

THE D WORD METHOD OF DESCRIPTION

Good DESCRIPTION is made up of specific sensory DETAILS and DOING WORDS.

PROMPT 1

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.

Add people DOING things 🙂

Set a timer for five minutes and go for it!

PROMPT 2

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.

Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

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

Edwina xx

THE “C WORD” METHOD OF CREATING CHARACTER DRIVEN NARRATIVES

Lucille Ball – one Crazy Character!

I may have gone a bit C Crazy but once I started, I just couldn’t stop.

As we all know the very best stories spring from the motivations, needs, strengths and weaknesses of the Central Character. The most important part of the word Character is the ACT in the middle. Action reveals the truth of who this person is. Not what they look like, though this gives us clues. Not what they say, though this can be great and very useful if juxtaposed with what they do. 

The Character must ACT, not react. They must Choose an action at some point, and they must Change or refuse to Change. This is what makes a protagonist the main character really.

Don’t go too crazy!

So, the C WORD METHOD.

A Character needs to have a CURSE, a CAUSE, CRAVING or a CALLING. They can have all four if you like but they must have at least one. This Curse, Cause, Craving or Calling – which in not C word terms would be your story goal or the character’s “desire” – usually springs from a CRISIS in their past. A wound or scar in their backstory that has shaped who they have become. 

For example, Madonna the pop star may have been a neglected middle child, always searching for her father’s approval so she CRAVED attention and sought it from the applause of strangers.

Harry Potter has a CURSE – the lightning bolt on his forehead is proof of this imbuing him with a piece of Voldemort. He also has a CAUSE – to save the world from the curse of Voldemort’s darkness and a CALLING – to lead the forces of good and defeat Voldemort. 

A story I recently wrote set during the reforming of the Catholic church through Vatican 11 in the 1960s was about a nun who CRAVED divine connection, was CURSED by her childhood in an orphanage and had once felt a CALLING but now found it lacking.

Nuns having fun 🙂

Figuring out your character’s C words will help form the plot of your story. Whether it’s flash fiction or a full-length novel.

            The C WORD METHOD continues as follows:

Start with your CHARACTER with a Cause, Curse, Calling or Craving

Then throw them a CALL TO ACTION – otherwise known as the inciting incident (also nice use of Cs) or CRISIS that spurs them to pursue their C word.

Then all you have to do is pile up COMPLICATIONS, CONFLICTS OR CHALLENGES into a CRESCENDO until you reach the

CLIMAX and then show us the CHANGE in the CHARACTER in the 

CONCLUSION!

Have fun creating chaos!

A cacophony of crazy Cs to create a cool, character-driven, competition-catapulting (fingers crossed) story!

Have a go. What is your character’s C Word?

Lots of love

Edwina xx