Description: What and How Much

Snapshot Hazel Hart, for blog copyIn 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.”

Character description

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.

 

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November 2: Still in the Game

blog nov 2 trifecta b

I’m feeling a little crazier tonight than I did yesterday, but I’m keeping up for the moment. Here’s my report.

NaNoWriMo

The goal is 1667 words per day. I have a total of 4158 for the two days, so I am over goal. After writing a couple of hours at home, I attended my Emporia group’s kickoff party at the public library and wrote another 1,000 words.

Fiction MOOC

I’m barely hanging on here. My assignment is due tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. I need three characters who disagree about an event and place in which they were all present in the past, and I need to include a present setting, all in 800 to 1,000 words. The characters will be Hiram Pierce, the father, Ambrose Pierce, 14, and Lucy Pierce, 13. The current setting will be their new house. The previous setting will be the cabin they built and lived in when the first moved to Hidden Springs. The event is the death of Minerva Pierce, Hiram’s wife. Given the lateness of tonight’s hour, I will have to do some fast writing tomorrow. The good news is that the words will count for NaNoWriMo, too.

Blogging 201

Today, I checked out features and themes. When I chose the theme for this blog, I thought it was responsive. Now, I cannot find that word in any of the description of the features. I did see that it would work on mobile devices, so I’m hoping that is the same thing. I found information on how to make the menu the way I want it, but I didn’t have time to do that. There is tomorrow.

That’s it for today. I’m stumbling off to bed, probably to a night of wide-awake thoughts on one or all three of the above subjects.

Creating Characters: Justin Quinn

I know a few things about Justin Quinn from Book 1 of the Pierce Family Saga (coming out on October 20). He was thirty-nine years old in 1855, so when Book 2 begins, he will be forty-three. He has a two-inch scar on the left side of his face as the result of an argument over a card game. He is Irish, six feet tall, and has red hair and green eyes. He is Cordelia’s biological father, and he deserted her mother, Minerva, before the woman knew she was pregnant. He was a fur trapper and trader when he met Minerva but has likely changed professions since the decline of the fur trade.

How are you feeling about Justin so far? Interested or not so much? Is he a hero or a villain? Hard to tell. We know some physical details and a few actions but there isn’t much in what I’ve told you to capture emotions or imagination.

How about this? Near the end of Book 1, Cordelia asks Aunt Hannah if her father knew about her. The answer: He could have figured it out if he’d wanted to. So now, we really have to dig in to Justin’s character. Did he want to know? Why or why not? Did he figure it out when Cordelia was a baby? Did he never figure it out but was told years later when he met someone? Does he not know until Cordelia is on his doorstep–if he has a doorstep? How does he react when his seventeen-year-old daughter finds him? But wait? Does he find her instead? Which course of action will produce the best story? There are so many decisions to make, and many of them  will come out of what happened in Justin’s own childhood since those experiences will have shaped his morality and thoughts about what it means to be a father.

Currently, I am considering having Justin’s father be a military person, perhaps stationed at some fort on the frontier, at least near the time when he would have left home at the age of seventeen or eighteen. I am currently reading Children of the Western Plains: The Nineteenth-Century Experience by Marilyn Irvin Holt in an effort to learn more about how children were treated at the time, information that will allow me to develop childhoods for all my major characters.