In the first two books of the Pierce Family Saga series, my characters were on the go. Descriptions of surroundings could be brief. In this third book, much of the action in the early chapters takes place in Hidden Springs. Suddenly, the town and the people in it need more than passing thoughts. While mulling over how many and what kind of descriptive details to use, I came across an excellent Glimmer Train article on the subject by Abby Geni.
As I read through the list of qualities for a good description, I compared the following paragraph from the rough draft of my novel-in-progress and found it lacking in sensory details. In particular, I might add details that signal the general feel of the store (neat and well-kept or disorganized, bright or gloomy) that indicate the character of the proprietors.
General store description from Ambrose Pierce’s point of view:
Fletcher’s Emporium was straight across the street. As I crossed, I saw their door was open to catch what little breeze there was on this blazing hot August day. I stepped inside and stood for a moment to let my eyes adjust to the dimmer natural light within. Blinking, I looked around to find no one at the front of the store. There were some thumps and voices from the back, though, so I figured they were unloading freight and headed on back through the long center aisle. I was perhaps five feet from the door to the back loading dock when I heard Mr. Fletcher’s raised voice. “We’ve got a good life here. I hope Ava’s not going to mess it up for us like she did back in New York.”
One of Geni’s most interesting rules is to stay away from what she calls “police blotter” descriptions of characters. In my partial description of Hiram Pierce below, I manage to do that. However, I do make use of the “mirror reflection” which is an overdone technique. Hopefully, it works here.
Hiram Pierce considers his appearance:
I checked my clean-shaven reflection in the mirror, rubbing my hand across my smooth chin, and once again considered whether to grow a beard. I’d want a full one if I did it. No sense going halfway. But a full beard around a blacksmith forge could be a fire danger. Almost unconsciously, my hand went to my chest and the almost square four-inch area where the border ruffians had branded me with a blazing hot horseshoe. I shuddered at the thought of sparks catching a beard on fire, at the pain of the burn and the scar it would leave. The puckered flesh on my chest was ugly enough.
Change in point of view and overall progress on Hiram’s Boy
I recently changed Hiram’s point of view from third to first person. What sounded acceptable in third person doesn’t work as well in first. However, that is what revision is all about, something I’ll get to when I have a complete rough draft. I have sixty-five pages so far.
If you are a writer, I hope you find Abby Geni’s article on description helpful.