“On paper my qualifications as a…writer are nonexistent. But that is the magic of your imagination1.”
And there goes yet another way NOT to sell your book; tell everyone that you have no experience in writing a book and expect them to view your crappy piece of art! How charming.
Although I have spoken to the author and mildly suggested for him to change this piece of writing, I am not here to dedicate an entire page to expose the stupidity of his writing and relentless gibberish. Instead, I have decided to expose the author to better writing methods.
Description is one of them.
It is my hope that as authors begin to read this section, they will find this section beneficial in a sense of improving their writing skills, especially when it comes to creating description in the book. If the message of the author is not communicated to the reader, then your story will not be considered as great as one would ever imagine.
Blunders in description #1: The setting
Sometimes I would like to imagine myself reading a book where I knew exactly who the characters are, what they are doing, and why, but that would mean that would make me a plot psychic, a power which I do not currently have. Since that is case then, I suppose there has to be another way to communicate the essentials. Whenever someone starts with the setting or ‘exposition’ as writers often like to call it, the author creates a setup for the reader to follow that will (hopefully) lead him to read onward. This starts off with the process of relaying information i.e., knowing all the basic ‘who-what-where’ of the book, oftentimes starting off with establishing character prior to location. Personally speaking, I think it’s best to mention the location first prior to introducing the character; at least the reader is prepped with feelings of tension rather than building it up. Sometimes that can be established using character, if you let him or her do all the talking and introductions from a 1st person’s viewpoint.
If location is done first, the opening lines should not sound like a typical, ‘Once Upon a Time’ setting where by the time someone finishes reading the first paragraph, he or she feels like the work is not entirely ‘making sure…his narrative is respectful of [his or her] time and intelligence2.’ Readers need to understand these crucial elements without getting the impression that you are trying to tell the story to a group of third graders rather than adults. One example that comes to mind is a book that I read just recently that does more entertaining in its style than the actual plot itself. Because of the tediousness of its style, most readers will not go any further beyond one page, especially when such books are written like this:
“All of the houses in the neighborhood were small, but Mister Ray’s was easily the smallest. The previous owner had been an old widow named Mrs. Bunchwick. Her husband had built the tiny house in the country many years ago. Eventually the surrounding city expanded and soon the house found itself in a crowded development looking very out of place. After her husband died, Mrs. Bunchwick kept after the house by planting flowers and keeping the grass cut short. It was a nice cozy house and the widow was quite proud of it. But as the years passed, she got too old to keep after the house and stayed inside all day watching soap operas on her black and white television set3.”
Although the general idea when writing the opening paragraphs of the first story is to establish the general location and characters, the problem rests on how well the stories are described. Merely mentioning that ‘Mister Ray’ lives in an old house in a small neighborhood in an unknown country does not cut it. Creating a vague atmosphere without getting into the specifics will not pique the reader’s interests; most likely, he or she will move on.
Blunders in description #2: The opening paragraph
Another problem that recurs in the self-publishing world is the downright stupidity that occurs in the first three opening lines of the book. If I had the time to gather the worst opening lines most authors create, there would be enough pages to make a best seller. I could not possibly tell you how many of these self-published authors I had to toss into my ‘Spare Me Nots’ and ‘Boring Books’ folders that I have on my desktop. Interestingly enough, most of the books I glance at for reviewing sit in those two folders because they are either too crappy to read or too boring to follow. Sometimes I had to put the book down and start laughing out loud; who are these authors kidding? If you are going to start off describing a setting, come up with a way of conveying the message clearly by a concise description.
By concise description, I do not mean to immediately start off by describing the weather or creating one lengthy sentence. Although some of these elements are good to include on occasion or when describing a setting, these should not serve as the chief means to break through writer’s block and begin the story. Unfortunately, many aspiring novelists tend to think this is so and continue onward by writing an opening paragraph that comes across as egotistic or downright boring.
This reminds of a time of a self-published novelist I had come across several months back when I have just launched my blog. The author I met at a Kindle Boards website submitted a novel for review. After finding out the author’s book won several rewards, I felt encouraged to think the book may be a best seller. Upon the first glance, I realized the book was tremendously troublesome, beginning at its first paragraph. Were it not for the promising plotline and flashy book cover, I probably would not have read it, seeing that there could probably have been no other worse way to start off a book like his:
“I never feel so alive as at a funeral. The sun never shines brighter, the raindrops never fall harder than the day the earth takes one of her children back into her belly. Birds sing again, and the sea looks like it must’ve before the end of the world, teeming, in elusive white mists, with the mystery of life.
I never feel so dead as at a funeral. The sugar maple leaves stretch into a withering yellow down Burgundy Hill, eaten by the hanging gray of a thunder-filled sky. The ocher of the lilies and lightning bolts that line the marshy grasses falls prey to the immense white of the house on the sea and the black of the tides behind it, beautiful in their destructive power4.”
Despite the mixed consonance and alliterations, I felt I was given a chalk full of words that offered significance in neither its settings nor rhythm. I counted the structure of the last sentence to find that the author used thirty-eight words, roughly eighteen words too many. The average word length anyone uses in a sentence consist no more than twenty words and that is if when someone wants to write something useful.
Blunders in description #3: The Rhythm & Style
There is a probable chance that almost every writer runs into this at least once in his life: creating an annoying tone which the reader takes notice of. In this case, when it comes to creating description for the story, style is one of the most typical reasons why readers will not read the things writers produce. And it’s not just the spelling and grammatical errors that I am talking about. Sometimes what really stops me from reading one simple piece of work are the dramatic pauses and elongated words that make the work sound “complex and deep5.”While I do hope that writers have a sense of style that appeals to readers, I would not suggest writing anything that sounds hopeless romantic.
By this I mean not to write in such a way that makes some reader really discontinue with the books that are written. Such was the case when I had another self-published writer submit a copy of his latest novel. After checking out the website, I realized this guy had the book out there for him: a novel, an image, a smashing book cover, and oh yeah, a soundtrack to his book (I was not sure if there was a movie being made about the book or what not, the idea did not seem real enough to me). From the first two pages of the latest novel, I chose to discontinue reading his work after finding out that the chapter contained far too many pauses. The world would sound as much of a Shakespearian stage if there were as much dramatic pauses in its descriptive moments such as this:
“For this was his great love.
Denny Banister loved complex problems, raw ideas that could be assessed and developed and turned into a real thing: a building, a tower, a house, a home.
He was in love with a beautiful woman-a woman who was his kindred spirit. He secretly held a desire to ask Sonya Llewellyn to marry him once they had graduated. Well, it wasn’t so much a secret between Denny and Sonya than something they wanted to wait for, once their respective degrees were out of the way and they could celebrate with their families. They had fallen in love through the guitar. He played for her, the most beautiful peaces- classical pieces, lyrical pieces, soulful pieces.
For the guitar was Denny’s passion6.”
Although the book sounded sincere in its motives, the paragraph’s had two problems: egotism and melodrama. While some of the italicized pauses had some genuine effect within the first pages, I could tell by the end of the chapter that I could not go on further reading a book with too many of these pauses. That meant I would have to undergo painful torture of personally laughing out loud to the point where my sides would begin to hurt. Honestly I have no interests in doing something like that.
While I continue onward with my writing career, I am anticipating on earnestly receiving epiphanies in the field of creative writing. By sharing these opinions and discoveries, it is my hope that authors will eventually take their time into improving their works to advance their writing careers.
1. King, Martin. ‘About Martin King-Author‘
2. Walsh, Patrick. ’78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published, 14 Reasons Why it Just Might’ Penguins Group: 2005, New York. pg. 29.
3. Perry, Adam. ‘Mister Ray’ pg. 4
4. DeCouteau, Jonathan. ‘Storm World: Speaker of the Gods’ pg. 1
5. Ibid, Walsh.
6. Mayes, Dean. ‘The Hambledown Dream.’ pgs.1-5.