How do I write Description?

I’ve been working on a novel lately.  I really want to finish this one!  Even if it is completely awful.  I’ve written chapter one (which starts out great, and ends with a poorly written bar scene).  Now I’m on chapter two!  Hooray for progress!

I’ve realised that I am not very good at writing description.  I forget to even put it in!  It’s probably because I’ve read a lot of classics, which do description well, but I know by today’s standards they are rather excessive.

My dad told me, when I was eight years old and just starting to write, that I should describe my characters’ looks right away in the first chapter.  But I’ve swung the other way–perhaps too far–and I don’t think a physical description is always necessary.  I’ve been trying to work descriptions into the story naturally, instead of writing a list of attributes like, “Eddie was 6’3″, muscular, with bright blue eyes and blond hair, thinning slightly…” (Nope, that’s not the hero.  That’s one of the villains!)

Then there is setting.  I do believe that describing the setting can be very important.  That’s where I have the most trouble.  I don’t want to use clichés, but on the other hand, I don’t want to be too off-the-wall all the time.  I need practice, I think.  And I need to read more really good fiction.

What are your favourite books or authors that use description well?

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Book Review: Tiger Lillie, by Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson’s Tiger Lillie is about a 31-year-old woman, Lillie, who is still
mourning the disappearance of her high school sweetheart while trying to keep her extreme wedding planning business going and striking out in the dating scene.

This book shocked me.  In a good way.  The story is entertaining and intense and emotional, and it seemed I was learning something new about the craft of novel-writing on every other page.  Here are just a few of those things:

1.     “…”  Brilliant. Much better than using words to state silence.

2.     Rabbit trails can be good!  Lillie is a very well-developed character, and even though her somewhat rambling thought process seemed disjointed at the beginning of the book, it all was necessary to understanding the story and the character.  Besides, Lillie thinks the way I think!  And apparently, it’s ok to write that way!

3.     It is ok to write in both first person POV and third person POV in the same novel.  This is one thing I’ve been vacillating about in my novel-in-progress.  I intended to write it all in third person POV because I want to show some of the antagonists’ thoughts.  But the first scene just came out in first person POV, and it was so much better than it would have been otherwise.

To anyone wanting to write contemporary fiction, Christian or otherwise, I say: Read Lisa Samson’s work!  I have another of her books waiting for me at the library.

To anyone wanting to read edgier contemporary Christian fiction, I say: Read Lisa Samson’s work!

Thanks to The Koala Bear Writer for recommending this author.