Yikes. Haven’t been updating as often as I should be. 🙁 But don’t worry; I will try harder!
At any rate, this is a topic that I’ve mentioned once or twice but haven’t really explained thoroughly. Basically, you need to weave your descriptions throughout the story instead of dumping them here and there in huge chunks. It relates to the whole “show, don’t tell” thing. You need to know when to show and when to tell, but you also need to know how to weave your descriptions. Here are a few ways to do this:
1) Instead of simply describing the setting, let your character(s) interact with it.
2) Use more indirect characterization than direct characterization. Instead of telling us that your character is “fat” show us through his actions- “he could barely fit through the doorway.”
3) Make the descriptions relevant to the plot. If a character has dark skin and dark hair, maybe that camouflages him and lets him hide from the enemy.
Each of these tips is trying to help you avoid the same thing- huge paragraphs of description that intimidate- or worse, bore- the reader. I am an avid reader and like to appreciate the descriptions in a novel, especially if they’re written with an amazing voice and style. But even I get tired of reading enormous chunks of description that are only there to show off the author’s language and don’t advance the plot at all. Descriptions are nice, but the story is more important. Move it along!
What truly impresses me is when an author can write a book in which the reader can picture everything happening but doesn’t have to suffer long pages of description to do it. Oftentimes an author will repeat descriptions of the same setting to impress his/her point. But the reader doesn’t need the point impressed. The reader is thinking, “I know the dungeon is dark and scary. You said it already, and you made it clear by the characters’ reactions. You don’t need to keep describing it!”
What you should get from this post: Huge paragraphs of description are bad, especially if they make you sound like a showoff. Weave descriptions throughout the story so the reader doesn’t have to suffer. Oh, and give your readers some credit. They’re not dumb. You don’t have to keep describing the same thing over and over again. 😉
One more thing- Happy Independence Day! 😀