If you missed Part 1, click here.
Please keep in mind these are suggestions only. They are meant as advice to help you polish your writing skills and help readers engage more in your work. Think of it as the “seasoning” to your dish–adding flavor to your story.
Show us, don’t just tell us.
Add some fun and mystery inside your descriptions. If a character has blue eyes or pointed ears, think of creative ways to show us without telling us. Clothing style and color can also be hinted at in this way.
His deep blue eyes bore a hole into my soul.
She brushed amber hair back behind a pointed ear.
The purple cloak’s hem trailed across the ground with each step the prince took.
Written like this, descriptions can entertain and draw us in as well as do their job of describing a character or object—doing more than just saying “he has blue eyes” and “she has pointy ears” or “the cloak was purple.” Obviously, this won’t work for every situation, but when it does work descriptions are more interesting to read and alive in our mind. We want to imagine what kind of blue eyes he must have to bore into another’s soul; we wonder if the pointed ears mean she is an elf, or something else; we picture the prince in his trailing purple cloak, and ask if this is an everyday wear for him or is he going on a journey? And why is it purple? Does purple symbolize something?
It’s good when you become so involved in a story that you ask questions about everything and strive to solve them in your mind. Wouldn’t you like your readers to do the same?
Let your reader read between the lines.
In a way it’s like adding bits of mystery for the reader to chew on and mull over; a puzzle for us to solve. When you don’t specifically state something, it tempts us to try and figure out what that something is. We must delve deeper into the story and into the characters themselves to understand the subtle meaning your words hint at.
She turned to him, hands clasped together expectantly. “I love you,” she finally said.
The girl waited for his reaction, but he remained silent.
“I do! I really, really do….”
After reading this, our mind attempts to figure out why “he remained silent.” What does it mean? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it would help if we knew more about “him” and what is a typical reaction for him. We are forced to get to know characters better so that we can decipher sentences like these. If I knew he was a shy and timid person, I would read between the lines that he’s probably too terrified or overcome with emotions to answer her. If I knew he was a heartless person, I would guess his silence to mean he could care less about this girl, and is most likely annoyed and waiting for her to leave.
But another puzzle is: why does the girl sound like she’s trying to convince him? Has she lied about this before? Is she a person who lies often, and so we shouldn’t trust her words? Or does she genuinely mean it this time? We have to read on and figure it out for ourselves. The author has us hooked.
Leave some room for the reader’s imagination.
Put the reader to work—allow us to fill in unnecessary details. Unless it is vital to the story, not every specific detail needs to be written. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy details; I think they add a lot to the story’s world. There are a few occasions, however, when too much detail bogs down paragraphs and slows the reading pace. Use the reader’s imagination to fill in the unnecessary gaps and details—allow their imagination to run wild. It’s also another clever way to keep them involved in the story.
The table was piled high with desserts, each of the most delectable kind.
I didn’t want to use up a whole paragraph describing what different desserts there are—I just wanted to get the point across that there are desserts everywhere and that they are delicious. What do I do? I put my reader to work; I have them use their imagination and imagine what sorts of “desserts” there are on this table. What may sound delicious to me, won’t to someone else; what I think tastes great, someone else might dislike. But I’ve kept this sentence vague so that the reader can imagine and picture the desserts he/she does like.
I admit, I don’t use this strategy very often because I enjoy details and describing scenes, but once in a while I come across a section of story that doesn’t need a lot of description, and in those times “leaving room for the reader’s imagination” comes in handy.
All of these are but a few examples of ways you can “season” your story with flavor. I hope it encourages you to continue studying and learning new writing techniques, and polishing your prose skills even further.
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~Happy writing, friends!