Saturday, May 13, 2006

If words could make wishes come true - scattered thoughts from an unfocused mind.

1. Just a thought that has been bouncing around my mind all morning:

You already know the answers to life's most important questions. Figuring out what those questions are, will consume most of your life.

2. There's big, and there's BIG:

"Consider these numbers: while Google reported $6.1 billion in 2005 revenue, the Microsoft corporation reported over $7 billion in 2005 R&D expenses alone. In other words, Microsoft's got lots of money to get where it wants to go..."

from MediaPost's Search Insider (What, you guys aren't into advertising?)

3. I used to like Miss Snark. Then I didn't. Now I do.

At first I thought she was funny, then I thought most of her comments were really mean-spirited, now I think she means well, and the mean-spiritedness truly is just her schtick. I don't have enough time to be a true snarkling, but if you do, you'll come away with an education not available anywhere else.

She's part of the Mediabistro Daily News today. Check her out

4. Speaking of Bernita (we weren't speaking of Bernita?), she picked up a topic from the Snark Spot this weekend, the use of the mirror as a descriptive tool, and improved on it. (While you're there, check out her post on the music writers use to drive their imagination)

I'm tempted to try my hand at the mirror description - such sensible rules call to my inner child - that petulant, arrogant boy who's not quite convinced he's the smartest kid in the class (Let it go - I already told you he was arrogant). I'm a sucker for a hard and fast rule. Nothing inspires me like the ability to proof some literary convention by brazenly defying it. Of course, if I do, I'll just be following far greater writers, like Oscar Wilde - who let his inner child run free in The Picture of Dorian Grey.

I wrote a story once where the main character was bedridden, and saw the world only through the narrow reflection in his dresser mirror of the view through his bedroom door ( he never saw himself, so no self-description).

Even without a mirror, I'm a devout minimalist (probably as a direct result of reading too much Stephen King as a young man), but I know of writers who are masters of detailed description. Ann Rice describes her characters like you'd describe a new lover - the detail is accepted as part of the emotional world, not the physical. I've seen her use reflections in her stories, but I'm not sure those scenes qualify as counter to the curse. John Irving is just the opposite, he focuses on the quirky- a huge mole on a girl's face, buck teeth, giant hands - the reader gets to add everything else.

What's your descriptive style?

p.s. I'll be posting more this week than you're accustomed to - please check back.

Mark Pettus,
Saturday, May 13, 2006

15 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Mayden's Voyage, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Mayden's Voyage, Blogger Michele, Blogger Gina, Blogger M. G. Tarquini, Anonymous Andy, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Anonymous Travis Jay Morgan, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger S. W. Vaughn, Blogger S. W. Vaughn, Blogger Jeff, Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 1:03 PM Blogger Mayden's Voyage said...

I haven't done this in a while, and no one told me to do it at the time (college), but I used to find an ordinary thing (like a brick wall, or a tree) and come up with at least 50 ways to describe it.

I also loved, and I still do this, to go to a mall or an airport and write character descriptions about the people I see based solely on their apperance.
Do these exercises help? Am I flexing the wrong muscles?

Personal question... When you are writing something, and reading a favorite author, do you find that he influences what you write?
Do you find the "flavor" of that person in your work?
Just curious...

at 5:05 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

a)There must be fifty ways to... describe a leaf or a lover?

b)Any muscle you flex is the right muscle, don't you think?

c)Not so much anymore, but it used to happen often. Now I just steal their pet words and use them as a kind of homage. (Ka-tet ring a bell?)

I am trying to emulate a certain style of writing in one project I'm working on - a baroque style that lends a Victorian feel to stories. Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood are my inspirations, and Atwood can turn this style on and off at will. I'd like to learn how to use the style to create a sepia-toned world for my readers.

at 6:53 PM Blogger Mayden's Voyage said...

A "sepia-toned world", I love that.

If I am in the middle of writing something-- I try not to read material by certain writers. I always end up hearing them in my story, or article later.
I wondered if this was true of other people too...thanks :)

at 9:32 PM Blogger Michele said...

Hmmm, style?
When I talk, I babble and overkill with details.
Writing, I would prefer to think minimalist.
But how minimal can one go before flavor is lost?
Oh, to walk the line....and not trip.

at 10:11 PM Blogger Gina said...

A few years ago I wasn't all that great with description at all. I've improved, and sometimes I think I describe too much. I'm also the type to get really into the character's heads too. Sometimes too much. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

at 2:11 AM Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

I don't think this will help much, but I describe what needs describing.

at 4:36 AM Anonymous Andy said...

Hi Mark. With poems I tend to seek an economy of words in most instances; whereas many prose writers tend to indulge, poets - of the better, readable sort, anyway - don't have that luxury.

I don't use ten words where one will do but the issue is, which one word? That can take an age or it can come in the time it takes to draw one breath.

I try to keep 'the', 'and', 'of' to a minimum because in poems these words are often unnecessary. Not always, though. Sometimes they have to be used. You always have to ask, though.

I like to put words together in ways which are new and, to some, no doubt perverse in so far as you wouldn't expect them to be fused. Snow-hungry, for example.

I like to make words up whenever the rare opportunity presents itself. In a recent poem, which interestingly was snapped up as soon as I submitted it to a literary journal, I described the river as 'babysofting the pebbles on its banks'. I love that word, 'babysofting' - conjures up images of gentility, talcum powder, innocence, love, kindness. Without using any of those words. And that's the economy of poetry!

Poets, I think, make for good reading for novelists seeking to break out of the box and cut down on the waffle to get to the real meat. Of course, there are many novelists out there with wonderful turns-of-phrase, too, which is why I am an avid if picky reader of prose as well as poetry. x

at 8:01 AM Blogger Bernita said...

Thank you, Mark.
Descriptive style?
I'm suggestive.

at 8:21 AM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

hmm.... it varies from book to book and mood to mood - can't say that I have a style so I guess that is my style - willy nilly - never know what you'll get

at 11:15 AM Anonymous Travis Jay Morgan said...

I'm simply trying to be aware of here and now, seeing everythings unique yet equal beauty. I tend to take extra notice to the things that many have been accustomed to, the grass, the leaves blowing on the tree 5 feet away from you. I see many walk on by without a notice, without stopping to feel the winds breath and feel the leaf trembling...every moment, being aware.

at 1:30 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

i often wait to describe characters until the second draft because i find they change on me. in my upcoming book, i hardly have any description of the female lead. i don't really know why i did that.

at 7:32 PM Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

Hmmm... my style started out heavy in character description, but has since evolved to the minimalist side. I'm not sure if I'm subconsciously letting the reader create a mental portrait of my characters through their actions, or if I'm just too damned lazy to write description.

And I'm guilty of the mirror scene, but in my defense I didn't describe the character's looks so much as all of the injuries he'd incurred, having just had the crap kicked out of him. And it certainly didn't open up the novel.

at 1:21 PM Blogger S. W. Vaughn said...

Okay, I'm checking back. More posting! We demands it! We wants it! Give it to us!

at 9:07 PM Blogger Jeff said...

I try to keep physical description of my characters to a minimum and let the reader fill in the blanks, unless it is something that has a direct impact on the story.

at 4:03 AM Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

I guess that's why MG and I are Bunions - I, too, only describe what MG tells me to describe. =)


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