Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Word is Worth 1/1000th of a Picture

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D: Description

7479I’ve never been good at description.  At least I’ve never considered myself good at it.  In fact, I wasted several years thinking I was a playwright or a screenwriter because I didn’t think I could ever paint worth a damn a vivid world and vibrant characters using nothing more then the twenty-six letters of the alphabet as my palette.  My dialogue was fine.  Plotting, no problem.  Ask me to describe a scene, or a character’s face, or the contents of a living room, and I’d be stumped.

I got over it, of course.  Writing was inside inside me, something I had to do.  Therefore I had to learn.  I never took writing classes in college, but I consumed writing books, and I read, and I wrote.  I could breeze through a page of dialogue or a chunk of exposition, but when the time came to paint the scene, nothing would come.  I could see it in my head, but to translate it to words took effort, and many stories died on the unforgiving alter of description. 

I’ve overcome that now.  In fact – and to my shock – most people who read my work comment on the description above all else, how they’re able to clearly see the world I’ve painted.  I’m by no means an expert, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to paint like the literary masters.  It takes a long time, too.  For me, a lot of my so-called writer’s block, isn’t really a block at all.  It’s just an inability to get past what for me is the really hard part of writing.

On the other hand, despite the effort it takes – or because of it – nothing in my writing gives me more personal satisfaction than a well-written descriptive passage.

What about you?  What’s your Achilles’ heel, and how do you overcome it?


  1. My achilles heel? Hmmm. That would imply that the rest of me is invulnerable I think and that is definitely not the case. I think though that my true weakness is fine dining. It's such a distraction. I love food, yet, it makes me fat and sleepy and unable to concentrate.

  2. Mine would be punctuation and dialoge...ha ha not to mention spelling :)Then we have... Computer fighting me and my brain forgeting that everything needs to be "saved" these days. Writing in the dark damages eye sight. So why do I remain so stubborn and keep doing it? I live in a dark house. My biggest achilles heel I guess is the dark matter I call my brain.

  3. My current Achilles Heel seems to be spending so much time on blogging that my own writing is being neglected. Hmm. Even though I have an approved proposal to work on, here I am blogging away. See you on P Day for Procrastination.

  4. Description is tough for me too, and the whole show-not-tell thing. But I guess it just takes practice, like everything else in writing!

  5. Mine would be spelling and remembering... what is that word?! :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  6. Mine is punctuation and telling :) but I do get better at it :)

  7. Spelling and punctuation are my thorns. Thank heaven for editing software.


  8. Grammar. I'm taking an online course to strengthen my sentences with action instead of resorting to BE verbs and passive voice.

    Description can cause me trouble at times as well. How much or how little to add usually trips me up. Another online course I took in February, taught me to provide some details, but to leave the rest up to the reader's imagination. The description starts in your imagination and ends in the reader. Good luck with the challenge!

  9. apart from spelling, punctuation and grammar do you mean?!! It would have to be dialogue - hate writing it - not good at it