Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Adding Description to Your Story

This was a cover contest submission. Not an actual cover used by R. Warren.

Do you want to write fiction? Do you want to write a memoir that includes storytelling?

During the lockdown of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I've taken to learning how to write a story or a memoir. This is a change for me because not only do I not write fiction or stories, I don't read them often either.
Some might think that makes me shallow. Perhaps so. I find some of the descriptive parts of fiction tedious. But as I've been learning, I understand how they help bring a reader into a scene. 

To grow in my learning of how to add description I've done five things. 

First, I wrote my story including all events I wanted to be included. 

Second, I searched online for articles on adding sensory descriptions to stories. I learned about the importance of creating a visual, an aroma, a texture (touch), and sound. Easy to read about, not always as easy to capture. 

Third, I visited websites that give examples of show, don't tell.

Fourth, I pulled some of my husband's fiction books off the shelf and also a few from my daughter's old room. I sat with a notebook and Post-it notes. I looked for examples in these books that might describe parts of my story. 

For instance, in a scene where I'm confronting someone, I looked for the same in the fiction books. 

Then, I took notes or put a Post-it note on the page to hold the spot. I returned to my story inserting something similar. I didn't copy exactly what the book said, but I used it as an example and worded it to fit my character.

Fifth, I realized my daughter's books weren't helpful as they pertained to fantasy and unreal worlds mostly. I'd need another avenue for this exercise. 

So I took to Amazon. I searched a number of memoirs for sale that have the "search inside" feature. 

This was fun. I was able to glimpse into so many books! I could even use my keyboard to search for certain words like "farm" or "disappointed". 

I borrowed a number of examples to put into my story, again rewording lest I be accused of plagiarism. (My examples were far different enough.) 

At one point, I put my story through an online tool called ProWritingAid. It didn't like several of the words I'd used. It suggested I used too many words in some sections. 

On editing, I went through my story again, adding more texture and reworking the story as we always do when editing. 

This has been a very fun and helpful exercise to help me increase my storytelling. Even when I write nonfiction, I often tell small stories. I am better prepared now. 

Finding Words for Your Story

I usually write non-fiction. In non-fiction, especially articles for web content, we need to write concisely. That means, we don'...