Description, or where the bloody hell am I?

As a reader I have come across a problem that pulls me out of the story so irrevocably that I’ve put down the book and nudged it away with my toe.  I’m sure you’ve encountered the same problem, but you may not have as much of a melodramatic reaction to it.  I’m talking about lack of description.  The lack of description that is so bad that you’re not quite sure whether you’re in Middle Earth or New York City.

gandalf

I recently read a book that was supposedly set in an ancient Chinese culture.  It’s funny though, the only indicators that it was set in China were the character’s names.  Otherwise it could have been set in any old medieval world.  There was no effort to show how this place that I was reading about was any different from the classic English fantasy world.  Given that the Chinese culture and technology was vastly different to the English equivalent of the time, I expected a little bit more in terms of description to wrap me up in this world.  Needless to say I got bored.

As a writer, you need to make sure that your reader is grounded in your world as quickly as possible.  The best way to do this is through description, and consistent description as well.  If your book is set in Ancient China, show me how it is different from everywhere else.  If it’s set on Pluto, I expect some mention about the ridiculously cold temperature.  Make me believe the characters are freezing their butts off.  Unless, of course, they are evolved to handle that kind of temperature.  But that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

Another failing in the use of description is changing haphazardly or unbelievably.  I call this the ‘characters are standing inside talking and inexplicably it starts raining on them’ phenomenon.  Or ‘first draft’ phenomenon.  That’s perhaps a bit easier to remember.  It’s fine to have these happen in the first draft, but if they make it into the published copy then I’m angry.  I don’t like reading inconsistent description.  If someone has left the room, then starts talking to the protagonist out of nowhere it gets confusing.  If no trees exist in the world but the main character’s house is made of timber from the finest wood in the region, then there’s a problem.  Remember what has come before, otherwise you’ll be creating inconsistent description and unnecessary plot holes.

But what about too much description?  When does it become too much that the story is lost in the describing of the world?  I must say, early on I was guilty of writing far too much description.  It wasn’t until a reader pointed out that they really didn’t need to know how many petals were on the purple flower that tapered off to amber at the tips that I figured out that maybe laying off the description can be a good thing.

There are articles that suggest the only description that should be put in is that which relates directly to the story.  I think it also depends on the genre.  Description about the world isn’t as necessary if you are writing a romance set in present time, as readers can draw from their own knowledge.  However, if you’re writing a sweeping fantasy completely set in an alternate world with magic systems and differing laws of physics, then description is necessary to embrace the reader into your world.

It must also be remembered that readers have different tastes.  I absolutely love the A Song of Ice and Fire series and a lot of that has to do with the amount of description that is placed within the story.  Other readers would quickly grow bored with seemingly endless descriptions and names of boats, armour and food.  Fair enough, but if George R.R. Martin wrote about the comparison of soil composition between Westeros and Essos I would lap it up and beg for more.  When articles tell you that too much description equals no readers, just look to George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan.  Their success tells you otherwise.

Please don’t make me ask where I am when I’m reading.  I get lost enough in the real world, I don’t need it to happen anywhere else.

Conversations you have as a wildlife rescuer

Random Citizen
Wildlife Rescuer

‘Oh I’m so happy it’s not a snake.  He’s actually quite cute when you see him up close.’
‘I’m glad you like him.  I’ll just put him back in his home.’
‘Wait, what?  I want it gone from my garden.’
‘I can’t take him from his home unless he is injured.’
‘Well, could you at least put it in the neighbour’s garden?’

‘So, how much do you get paid for this?’
‘I’m a volunteer, I don’t get paid for it.’
‘Why the hell do you do it then?’

‘If you could just go on the roof and block up the chimney, that would be nice.’
‘I’m not comfortable with doing that.  My insurance doesn’t cover that if I fall.’
‘How am I supposed to stop possums getting into my roof then?  Aren’t you supposed to help me?’
‘I’m helping the possum not you.  Call your husband.’

‘Oh look a kangaroo!  HEY KIDS LOOK AT THE KANGAROO!’
‘Ma’am, if you could just lower your voice and stop your kids from…too late.’
‘Oh for the love of all that is holy, Gerald!  Gerald, why oh why did this happen to you?  That awful kangaroo should be shot.’

‘I won’t let you shoot it!  We’ll take it to the vet, it’ll be fine.’
‘The kangaroo has two broken legs, a broken spine and is bleeding out of its ears.  Vets aren’t wizards.’
‘How would you know?  You’re just trigger happy!’

‘I wrapped up the poor possum, he’s much happier now.’
‘Yeah…that’s a rat.’

Kate, where have you been?!

It has been a while hasn’t it?  Quite a change from the daily posts I had been putting up.  Time to get back to it!  So what have I been doing instead of sitting in front of the computer this last week?

I visited five new bookshops and frequented the local a couple of times.  I may have acquired a few more books.

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And one notebook. A writer can never have too many notebooks.

I went to a primary school fete, shot Daffy Duck off his perch and won myself a dragon.

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Could AshCat BE any more cranky?

I checked out the Practically Green Festival in Eltham and dodged this lovely lady.

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I even went out with friends (shocking, I know).

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Alcoholic beverages are sparkly these days. How times have changed.

And now it’s time to hide back in my shell once more.  I’ve used up my social quota for the next year.

The One Lovely Blog Award

one-lovely-blog-award

I have been nominated for another award!  Many thanks to Jacob over at Serpentine is Here for the nomination.  I recommend you check out his website for some dark, thought-provoking poetry.

Without further ado, here are the rules for the One Lovely Blog Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
  • Share 7 facts/or things about yourself
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform the nominees by commenting on their blog.

Now for the facts…I promise these are things that I have never shared on my blog 🙂

1. Claim to fame: I was an extra in the 2006 adaptation of Charlotte’s Web.  I never met Dakota Fanning because I was too busy stuffing my face with fairy floss, popcorn and coke.

charlotteweb

It’s the Kate Turville edition of Where’s Wally/Waldo?

2. I have an impressive scar on my wrist from a tangle I had with a six-foot kangaroo.  I recommend not trying to hold a kangaroo’s head down without at least a blanket.

3. I am scared of the dark, clowns, spiders, knives, death, breaking bones, the Earth exploding.

4. I quit gymnastics when I was seven because I hated the leotards going up my bum.

5. I have an unhealthy obsession with singing songs to my cat, but replacing all the lyrics or melodies with ‘meow’s.  You should hear me do the Game of Thrones theme song.

6. I truly wish that the Little People existed and that I could dance with the fairies before they killed me.

7. I keep horrible books in my toilet so that when guests use it they seriously question my taste and humanity.  Favourites include Mills and Boon romances – as long as they’re from the 1970s.

There are just a few things about me.  Now these people below…tell me about you!

William Lloyd

Aether House

Mindy Ogg

Mark Anthony

Julaina Kleist-Corwin

The choppy 60,000 words

I have previously posted about other milestone word counts and their problems, and I have inevitably reached yet another phase in my writing that I feel everyone must encounter at some stage.

It occurred to me a few days later while I was hunting for jobs, that I could just write out that amazing scene.  Get it off my chest and unplug the flow of writing.

‘No!’ my inner planner shrieked.  ‘You’ll lose the flow, you’ll never come back to the filler.  Then your story is DOOMED.’

‘Do it,’ my muse whispered in my ear.  ‘You know you want to.  Because reasons.’

So, with that flawless reasoning, I turned off job searching mode and turned on furiously writing mode.  Within half an hour I had written a sloppy, but passable exciting scene.  I went back to where I had cut off and lo and behold, the story started to flow again, the characters woke up from their naps and got to action.

Whenever I’ve started to slow down since then because of a scene in the future that is nagging at my brain, I have skipped a few pages ahead and written it out, got it down before I lose my mind.  A new weapon to put in my writer’s arsenal.

And who said choppy writing was bad?

I’ve got the shakes.

No guys, I’m not withdrawing from an illicit drug. It’s the nervous shakes.

Recently I wrote a post about hunting for jobs and it’s finally coming to fruition as I receive various forms of polite rejections and one shortlisting that required me to be tortured through phone interview. Here’s the kicker though: I’ve never been given the job after a phone interview. Why? Because word vomit.

I am truly the worst when it comes to interviewing on the phone. I’m not sure I even form whole sentences and I end every answer with, ‘well, yeah that’s about it…so…’ Embarrassing stuff. Especially when you’re going for a job that involves a lot of talking on the phone and focuses on phone manner. Let’s just say the interviewer didn’t sound impressed.

I had that interview three hours ago and I’m still sitting at a high level on the anxiety scale. Not a good sign when I need to get back to work. How am I supposed to work there if a little interview caused me such stress? I’m hoping it’s just myself knowing that I am hopeless at phone interviews and I really need a job. I can’t afford to have word vomit excreting from all openings. Enjoy that mental image.

It would be nice if they did email interviews for once. I would nail it. Or is that considered the initial application? Damn I’m confusing myself.

Anyone else get overly nervous for interviews? Nervousness that goes beyond the normal butterflies doing a dance in your stomach?

In my friend’s garden

I’ve been looking after my friend’s cat for the last few weeks and today when I came over I happened to spot this little guy in the garden.

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t tend to have too many echidnas chilling in our backyards in my neck of the woods so I spent some time with him, taking a few photos while he dug around for food and freaked out at every bird passing over.

Om nom nom ants.

Om nom nom ants.

On a sadder note, I also noticed a young pied currawong being swooped by noisy minors.  Usually I would just leave these guys alone because they can handle themselves, but this one had some issues going on with his legs and he couldn’t fly properly.  Turns out he had severely infected legs – so bad they looked like they had been dipped in concrete.  We had to say goodbye to that one.

By the by, this is a pied currawong. Taken by Leo, Flickr - click to be taken to original image

By the by, this is a pied currawong.
Taken by Leo, Flickr – click to be taken to original image

Meanwhile my friend’s cat received no attention so cracked the nanas and wouldn’t look at me when I left.  Sorry kitty!

The Dance

She looked up at the sky as it changed from a bright blue to the dark of night, bloody streaks of emerald and purple tainting the black. It meant nothing to her, the sudden change, but it meant something to the aunt who pointed at the sky with a quivering, vein-lined hand.

The aunt’s shout brought the attention of the entire group and she watched as the aunt lowered her hand to cover her brow, the other one covering her heart, the eternal symbol of danger. Others pointed to the sky now, the colours transforming and blending until a large creature emerged flying through the sky, lightening flickering as its wings beat the air.

The aunt cried now, collapsing and she leant down to comfort the older woman, her small hand rested against the ragged edges of the woman’s spine while she continued to look up at the sky. More colours were appearing around the creature, gold and silver, green and yellow, orange and brown. They all coalesced to form similar beings, their wings reaching out to cover the entire skyline.

Fear should have entered her, but it was only curiosity that flooded through her, a burning desire to see the creatures close up, to be consumed by them. She stepped forward, her hand dragging along the aunt’s spine before falling off and hanging loosely at her side. Her toes dug into the dirt below, feeling the movement of the earth and she continued on, a cry behind her going unnoticed.

No one tried to stop her and she stepped outside the circle, her eyes reflecting the dance of the creatures, her ears full of their music. They weaved amongst each other, sending splashes of colour further across the sky which in turn birthed more of the dancers, their movements wild yet graceful.

She wished to be one of them, flying so powerfully through the sky and her body moved of its own accord, doing its own clumsy interpretation of the dance. Her heart soared, reaching to join them so high above her and they turned to look at her as one, bodies shifting in the sky. Her feet scuttled across the ground as she moved faster to meet them, the creatures of the air, beautiful in their might.

Her hand reached out, begging to be taken, to be released from the earth which held her prisoner. They looked at her but did not help. She needed to do this herself, lose herself in order to find herself. Time became meaningless as she danced, her movements becoming more graceful as she edged towards the creatures, their wings beating air into her face as she approached, blowing her hair back, stripping away her entire being.

The dance quickened, encouraging her to move faster, to match the rhythm and she did so, effortlessly now, as her spirit started to pull away from her body. Her heart no longer hammered with the exertion, her breath no longer misted the air and blood no longer flooded through her veins. She left pain behind, just another prisoner of earth.

It all came to a stop and she rushed up to meet the creatures, a colourful streak in the sky joining the dance of the dragons.

What I would think of America if I only watched television shows

I’ve never been to America. All I know about it is from popular culture, my own research, the media and talking to actual Americans. But what if I cancelled out the majority of my understanding of America and based my entire knowledge on television shows? Why, this happens.

Thanksgiving
A stress filled day where nothing ever goes right. The typical American cannot find a turkey to roast and fights abound.

The solution is always pie.

The solution is always pie.

There’s something about Native Indians being suppressed, made slaves, generally looked down upon? But this is outweighed by the average American’s need to make everything perfect. In the end, everyone is sitting down for dinner and all is resolved. Thanksgiving is a time for turkey.

Nothing like a dead bird to bring people closer together.

Nothing like a dead bird to bring people closer together.

Female Americans
Hello! I should be moving to America. All the women are smoking AND ridiculously skilled at whatever vocation they lay their hands on. Wait, that woman looks a bit plastic. And that one… I think America is full of robots. Evil, soul-sucking robots. Men, beware of the Fembots!

But they're so attractive...

But they’re so attractive…

Fat men get all the ladies
On that note, it seems that the Fembots are attracted to men far below their standard. Not only are the men unattractive, but they don’t pay any attention to their Fembots, do none of the housework and spend all the money.

This makes no sense.

This makes no sense.

These types of men may have some type of magnetic field that attracts the Fembots and have actually been put in place by the FBI in order to stop the robots from taking over.

Plot twist!

Plot twist!

Incredibly unjust class system
I feel sorry for the workers of America. It seems like all they ever do is solve crimes, hand down justice or commit criminal acts all for money that is going to the non-workers that populate America.

'What are you doing?' 'I'm paying for Penny's apartment.'

‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m paying for Penny’s apartment.’

Sure, these non-workers occasionally visit some workplace under the pretence that they are earning a living, but it’s really just a cover so that the workers don’t revolt.

'...and then I got some schmuck in CSI to pay all my bills.'

‘…and then I got some schmuck in CSI to pay all my bills.’

If I were a worker in America I would be standing up for my right to at least go home and visit my family. Perhaps a food break would be nice…

The groups of four
It would be incredibly eerie walking down the streets in America. Everyone is clustered in groups of four and are afraid to break out of that tight circle.seinfeld

What happens when one person alone walks down the street? Do they get ravaged by a group of four, eaten and become sustenance for the group?

In this case, they only eat men.

In this case, they only eat men.

I’m afraid that if I ever travel there I need to bring three other people as back up. They aren’t groups. They are gangs intimidating the lesser grouped out there. And a change is occurring. They are adding to their groups. They are expanding. Soon they will be hanging out in groups of over a hundred.

It begins...

It begins…

There are monsters everywhere
Screw going to America. You think Australia is jam packed full of deadly things? Take a look at your own country:

It's always smart to drive a Hyundai in America

It’s always smart to drive a Hyundai in America

Nope.

Nope.

Double nope.

Double nope.

Just for the lols.

Just for the lols.

Look forward to my post about what I know about America if I only listened to the media. Actually…let’s skip that little can of worms.