I’ve been sitting outside, enjoying the lovely spring weather, listening to the birds singing, and reading.
It’s good for the soul to get away from the computer every now and again.
But here I am, back again, with a burning need to
rant write. I’m currently reading a book that is so frustrating.
It’s a wonderful story with a heroine I love. She’s on a great adventure. And this is exactly the kind of story I love. Strong heroine, coping with unfair circumstances, all alone, on an adventure trying to survive. There is romance coming, I’m pretty sure. There is so much I love about this book.
And yet, I’m struggling to get through it. I keep falling asleep. Now, granted, I’ve been sick and I’m falling asleep on everything I read. But I find it telling that I’ll be reading along, into the book, loving it, and then…I hit a patch of description. And my eyes glaze over.
There are several small, irritating things that should have been edited out. But those I can ignore. What gets me are the patches of description that I’m pretty sure were edited in. I suspect these sections were added in after the book was written, because they don’t fit the flow of the story. I’m reading along and the sentences are varied and interesting and the story is flowing, and then the character will enter a room and all action will stop while the narrator tells us what the room looks like. The narrator sees every room in about five sentences all with the same structure. So these patches of description look like this:
The floor was covered with a thick purple rug. There were three windows in the left wall. The back wall had a fireplace. A table was in the middle of the room. Chairs were around the table.
OK so what am I whining about? Five short sentences. This method of description is quick and effective, I suppose. I know what the room looks like. But when you have these short descriptions dropped in every time you enter a new room and every time a new character comes on the scene, it gets old pretty fast. It’s one thing to stop on the top of a mountain and take time to drink in the view. It’s quite another thing to stop in the middle of the story action, to remark on all the furniture in every. Single. Room. You. Enter.
We do need the author to paint the scene, but we don’t need authors to stop the action while they describe people and rooms. It takes longer to describe a room in the midst of the action, and it feels counter-intuitive. It feels like the added words will slow the book down. But just the opposite is true, I think.
Brian opened the door and surveyed the room. The first thing he noticed was the thick, dark purple rug. Why was he not surprised? It matched Lucretia’s brooding personality. On the far side of the room a fire burned in the grate, the flames greedily licking the bottom of a cast iron pot. On the table in the middle of the room, Brian found a hot pad, and he used it to pick up the pot. No telling what evil brew the old woman was cooking up. Maybe it was harmless, but why take chances? He crossed to the windows in the west wall and drew back the curtains, letting the morning sun flood in. Then he cranked open one sash and dumped the contents of the pot onto the bushes below.
OK. Much longer. But you are discovering what the room looks like without bringing the story to a screeching halt. And you are getting some clues about Brian, and about the person who lives in the room besides. You’re getting a lot more than simple, straight description.
What do you think? I realize that taste comes into play here. Obviously the person who edited the book I’m reading, likes to have rooms and people described right away. What about you? Do you like the longer version or the shorter? Or is there a third option?