In addition to her website, Morgan blogs every day at her own blog and contributes to three other co-op blogs: Acme Authors Link, Make Mine Mystery, and The Blood-Red Pencil. She stays very busy and still has time to come by today to talk to us about description in novels.
Please help me welcome Morgan Mandel.
How to Add Description to Your Novel
One answer is to hire a great editor like Helen Ginger. In my edits, Helen pointed out various areas of Killer Career that were lacking in description. She was right. I knew what everything looked like, but the average reader wouldn’t. It was my job to pass along what was clearly in my mind onto the printed page.
I knew the basics, but while going through my edits, I learned how to put them to use. Here, I’ll share some of what I already knew and what I learned.
Description comes in many forms. When you slip into a character’s point of view, what that character notices is what you want the reader to be able to see. Here are a few areas where you can add description to enrich a novel:
Time of day - Is it sunrise, sunset, or maybe high noon? Is it night, with a half moon, a sliver or full moon? Can you see the stars or are clouds hiding them? Is there a fog in the morning? If so, is it covering a lake, or maybe a highway? Does it cause an accident?
Seasons of the year – Using the Seasons and the Holidays with their trappings is a great way to show the passage of time, but keep in mind your story’s setting. A character could long for a good old-fashioned Christmas while stuck somewhere dry and warm, instead what’s considered traditional. In an Illinois winter at six in the morning and six at night it’s dark, yet at the same times in the summer, it’s light.
Places where your characters live – Especially the first time, it’s important for the reader to get a grasp of what the character’s home looks like. It doesn’t have to be much. Just hints here and there about such things as tastes in furniture, like modern or country. Are there knickknacks on the wall or on end tables or shelves? Is the house pristine? You can use the sense of smell to describe cleaning agents or garbage that needs to be taken out. My busy character in Killer Career wasn’t overly concerned about keeping her house immaculate, so it wasn’t unusual that she hung clothes on a door knob and didn’t always make up her bed.
Places your characters visit – In the first scene of Killer Career, my character attended a mystery conference. Not only did I need to indicate in some way how many people were there, I also needed to show where they were in the room. The sound of silverware clanking and the interruption of a waitress making her rounds added to the authenticity of the scene.
What the characters look like – This includes such physical characteristics as eye and hair color. It can also mean hair style or lack of hair, skin color and/or blemishes, an accent or stutter. Does a character have dandruff? Bad breath? Is sweat dotting the forehead, maybe staining under the arms or between the shoulder blades? Do the clothes bulge because the character is overweight and doesn’t know how to hide it? Is the character tall or short? You can also describe a character’s walk. It could be fast, as with a young and impatient person, or it could be slow and halting, because it’s hard to move when the bones and joints are aching from old age.
There are so many other ways to add description to a novel. I hope some of my hints will help you when it’s time to add yours.
Thanks for hosting me today, Helen, and also, thanks for your wonderful help in getting my romantic suspense, Killer Career, up to speed.
My next stop is on Saturday, August 22, at Murder by 4, http://www.murderby4.blogspot.com, hosted by Marta Stephens. My topic is moving your plot forward.
Don’t forget the comment contest. You could start by telling us more ways to add description to a novel, or maybe one of them mentioned is already your favorite. The rules and prize list for the contest are at: http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/2009/08/prize-for-blog-book-tour.html
Thank you Mogan!
Before you all zip to the Comments section, let me add that Killer Career is available at major distributors such as Ingram, at Amazon.com, Bn.com, Target.com, Mobipocket.com, and by order at Bookstores. Here's a brief description of Killer Career:
Changing jobs could be a killer when Julie McGuire latches onto her sexy psychotic mentor, despite the warnings of her best friend and law partner, Dade Donovan. To save herself and Dade, she must face her greatest fear: claustrophobia.Don't forget: Leave a comment to enter the contest!