Recently, I received a revise/resubmit request from a publisher to whom I’d submitted an MFM novel. One of the things the editor asked me to work on was description. She pointed out that, among other things, none of the three main characters was described in any way.
Description is one of my downfalls in writing. In my mind, I can picture the characters and the actions and the setting. Something is lost in the translation between my brain and the page, though. Sometimes I don’t have a clear enough picture, while other times I visualize it so strongly that I forget the reader can’t see what’s in my head.
It is important in writing to describe things well. The reader wants to know what the characters look like so they can identify with them better or picture things as they’re happening. They want to know where the characters are, and what senses other than sight are coming into play.
Definitely something I need to work on. One of the things the editor mentioned was that she was confused by the description of the heroine’s apartment. In my mind, I can clearly picture the apartment, because it’s based on mine. Perhaps a bit too clearly, because I just kind of forgot that the reader wouldn’t know what my apartment looked like. I need to add more description so readers will know where Corin and Elena live.
And figure out how to describe the characters. I have their images in my head, but I can’t really use those to go by. They’re too close to resembling real-life people I know, and at least one of those people might not be pleased at being the model for a romance novel character. So I’ll have to see what I can figure out, or find pictures of people who might fit the physical description and use those to help me along.
I’m a very visual person, so I tend to become hung up on using sight as the sole basis for description. As was pointed out to me, there are other senses, and to have well-rounded description the author needs to appeal to all of them. How does the character sound? What do they smell like? Etc.
I would tend to assume that in genre romance (paranormal, fantasy, historical, etc.), description would be even more important, because the setting, clothing, etc. are important parts of the story and help let the reader know when and where things are taking place.
I don’t do a very good job of painting word pictures. I have pretty decent stories, and I’ve received good feedback on my characterization. We just don’t know what my characters look like. So that’s something I need to work on.