Every story we write should have purpose. It helps to make the story flow and hook the reader.
We as a writer tend to focus on the characters of the story and try to introduce the character so the reader can visualize them. We give the characters hair color and eye color and show how tall they are as close to the first paragraph in the first chapter as we can. Otherwise, we have talking heads.
That is why I was surprised when a teacher in my class cut some of the words to describe the character. I was told unless it has a purpose to the story, later on, there wasn’t a need to get into what they are wearing. We need to reveal what the character looks like but not necessarily what they are wearing unless there is a purpose to it.
Same with the setting. Unless it adds to the actual story? We don’t need to go into great detail about their surroundings.
Say you have a scene where it is raining, and you describe it in great detail but it doesn’t lead the story anywhere. It is not needed. You could just mention how cold the rain felt as it ran down her back and moved on. Now if the rain is the purpose of making the hero and the heroine run into an abandoned barn to stay dry and the sparks start to ignite between them, then you have a purpose for the rain.
Otherwise, there is no need to bring too much attention to the rain. It’s raining. What is the big deal?
If your character has a mole and you bring attention to that mole, there must be a reason. Does the mole make her feel self-conscious in front of the hero? Does she finger the mole when she is nervous? This would give the reader a sense of when she’s nervous without actually bringing attention to her nerves every time. If you are going to bring it into the story, have a reason to it. Make it advance the story.
We have always been taught to be specific with details but the reader has an imagination, and sometimes they want to visualize it in their mind by themselves. We have to give our readers credit and let them form the picture.
We can still describe the character and the setting and should but keep it brief and tight and then move on.… Click To Tweet
We can still describe the character and the setting and should but keep it brief and tight and then move on.
When we move the characters around, the reader needs to know how they got from the car to the house, or they will be jarred out of the story. They don’t need to know every step they took. They don’t need to know that they stopped to look at the yellow rose that had blossomed unless there is a purpose for it. They don’t need to know that they turned the knob and opened the door.
Instead, tell the reader she parked her car in front of the garage and walked into the house. Then move on to the purpose of why she is in the house.
It’s important not to get hung up in every detail but to keep the story moving with purpose.
How do you handle the descriptions of setting and the characters? Do you give them purpose?
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