DESCRIPTION is another in the “Elements of Fiction Writing” series by Writer’s Digest. This series aims to break the components of fiction down to its simplest terms (plot, setting, etc.) so a beginning writer can master each element separately before putting it all together. This is one of the better offerings in the series, with great examples and an encouraging tone.
Wood shows writers ways to weave in description so it doesn’t bog down the story. Nobody wants to read a long passage of static description–the dreaded “infodump”–and Wood shows writers how to find the single telling detail that can stand in for pages of description. She gives numerous good examples and does something that I wish more how-to books did: she shows a paragraph both before and after it is rewritten. It’s no good to know why something doesn’t work without knowing how to make it better, and Wood makes sure her readers know how to fix their prose.
In the section on “showing and telling,” Wood discusses when to use a scene and when to use summary. The choices aren’t as cut-and-dried as a beginner might think, and she shows the subtle changes that result in each narrative choice. She also shows how to use description to pull readers through the story, how first and third person point of view handle description differently, and the best way to describe setting. The chapter on dialogue isn’t about the dialogue itself, of course, but the description that goes along with it. Wood shows how the addition or subtraction of description between lines of dialogue can cast what the characters say in a completely different light. She rounds out the book with warnings about special pitfalls. Be careful when writing about animals, weather, and a first-person narrator describing herself.
DESCRIPTION is an excellent guide for writers who want readers to see, hear, and touch their stories. It shows writers how to make their description the very best part of the book, instead of the part that most people skip.
rating: 4 stars
pie slices: 8 slices craft
This book is best for: beginning writers
I recommend this book.