As I get more confident of my ability to turn out reader ready prose (creating books) I have inevitably learned a few things. I’m going to attempt to occasionally share them here if there proves to be any interest. Just for grins and to indicate I’m talking about writing in general and not something specific that I have written, I’m going to call this my Mild-Mannered Writer’s Thoughts and put my “news reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper” portrait with them.
Know yourself. Some writers like to describe things and people in explicit detail. Some specialize in action, and others in dialogue. For myself, I get caught up in the dialogue and action and often fail to describe appearances of things as well as I could. That’s not a bad thing and it’s not a good thing. It’s just the way I write. For example, I only recently learned that, in the five books of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series, the protagonist is never, ever described at all. We are never even told what color his hair is. This is proof positive to me that, while description is an essential part of writing a story, it’s not necessary to describe things that aren’t essential. In point of fact, a description is really only essential if it is setting a mood or dropping a hint for the reader. You can pretty much trust the reader to fill in the rest. That does not necessarily mean you should not use lots of descriptions–it just means you don’t have to. Going back to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books, I’ve always had an image in my mind’s eye of exactly what Taran of Caer Dallben looked like but, if asked, I would have just assumed I had read it somewhere in one of those books.
On the other side, in Simon Green’s Nightside books, he describes everything. Allow me to give you an idea of what I mean. When I go to work I plug my kindle into my car stereo and listen to books all the way in and all the way home. It’s about a twenty minute commute (which in New York means it would be about five to ten minutes in any other place that I’ve ever lived). I noticed last month, in one of Mr. Green’s books, that at the start of my drive the protagonist was hailing a cab. When I got to my parking garage that protagonist was getting out of that cab. There had not been any action or dialogue the entire time. For that author, in that genre, it seems to work. If I did that in my books not even my dad would read them. That’s how I know its not my style.