Thursday, July 1, 2010

How To Edit Your Novel, Part 3 (Reworking Description)


I know I've brought attention previously to how seldom I display my work directly on the blog, but I felt compelled to share today. I'm making progress.

One area where I'm hitting this manuscript fairly hard is revamping initial descriptions of the characters as they enter their first scene. Non-viewpoint characters, that is, as I've still not found an effective and unobtrusive way to introduce a character through their own eyes.

So, here is the description from the initial draft of the minor character, Luamaya.


    The emissary he met on the lower floor was a lithe woman with prominent breasts and a dark complexion. At first, Tysane thought it odd that the Emperor would send an emissary that was not full-blooded Pilion, but when she saluted he found he did not care. Neither, it seemed, did Lumber, as the animal continued to sleep and occupy the same spot as the night before.
    "General," the woman said, "It is an honor to meet you. I am Luamaya, and our coach is waiting."
    Luamaya's accent placed her from one of the western colonies of Pilion, those that shared territory with the island nations in the sea west of Prakk. Dressed in the reds and whites of the Emperor's court, her black braids and eyes looked even more foreign. Tysane gauged her stoic expression as he returned the salute, then nodded to let her lead the way outside.


Functional, perhaps, but not nearly descriptive enough to flesh the character out. I mean, reading this today, I'm thinking to myself, "Lithe with prominent breasts? I've got to do better than that."

So, here is the improved description. (Note: both of these portions encompass the end of the chapter)


    The emissary who awaited him on the lower floor was a lithe woman with sharp, angular features. Her dark complexion and large eyes declared her an islander. Tysane had to look away before she caught him staring. Though he dealt with islanders on numerous occasions, Tysane had never seen anyone like her before.
    Islanders hailed from the western colonies of Pilion, those that shared territory with the island nations in the sea west of Prakk. The bones and charms in her black braids looked even more foreign amid his humble belongings.
    Her bold crimson outfit struck him immediately as odd. Neither her corset nor her short, form-fitting dress looked to be made from cloth, as both reflected a strange sheen as metal would. Soft leather boots covered her legs past the knee. As she lifted her hand in salute, the red cape similar to his fell away from an arm covered in bracelets and serpentine tattoos.
    At first, Tysane thought it odd the Emperor would send an emissary who was not full-blooded Pilion, but when she saluted he decided he did not care. Neither, it seemed, did Lumber, as the animal continued to sleep and occupy the same spot as the night before. Her expression remained unreadable as he returned the salute.
    "General," the woman said, "It is an honor to meet you. I am Luamaya, and our coach is outside."



I much prefer the second version, but I will admit to being a little biased.

What do you think?


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4 comments:

  1. Yep, second. The first one is "tell", the second is "show and". :p

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  2. The second seems better, but here is some criticism.

    1) This will work better, if you drop some adjectives. 'bold read' 'soft leather' 'short, form-fitting'.

    2) The description feels clustered and overflowing with details. While it does give the desired visual, does it move the story in any way? I am not saying to cut all the details, but perhaps not list them as you do here and spread them evenly as to maintain the motion of the story.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'll second Harry on the extra detail. It's too much. And actually "prominent breasts" might work if the perspective character is so inclined to notice...

    ReplyDelete
  4. The purpose of the extra detail is because this is Luamaya's introduction; she doesn't appear before now, so this is the reader's first chance to see what she looks like. I constantly get dinged for not describing my characters, so perhaps I overdid it? But, in this case, being an intro, having more description saves me from having to describe her later on.

    Regarding the "prominent breasts," one of my beta readers actually mentioned that very thing. It does suggest Tysane has wandering eyes, and that's not how I wanted to portray him. Particularly since, in the previous scene, he has sex with his wife upstairs. :)

    ReplyDelete

I'm always happy to hear from you, even if you disagree. Leave a comment or shoot me an email (initialdraft@gmail.com), whichever you prefer. Thanks for stopping by.

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