Sunday Brunch: Descriptions

I’m not a fan of descriptions. I’m bad at writing them, and they largely bore me to tears reading them. I can recognize, however, that I am largely alone in this, since most people seem to think that descriptions are just nifty.

Now, of course, one needs to describe some things. However, for me, the most utilitarian description suffices. I need you to tell me the absolute bare minimum to give me a picture of where we are, what we are looking at. And then move on to dialogue, and other things that support your (preferably linear) narrative. I know. I know. I’m a philistine.

Here are two examples to show you what I mean.

The mountain laurel was at the end of its blooming season, white and pink star-shaped clusters that came apart in filmy layers, covering the ground like spent confetti. Through a dense grove of them, we dipped into a small valley where the vegetation shifted to the ferns and vines of riparian meadow, and gave off a boggy scent. Headingsouth along the meadow’s green rim, we walked for another half mile or so until we came to a thick tangle of alder and then a wide, still redwood grove. At the center was a towering giant that made my neck pinch as I looked up to see how high it reached.

When the Stars Go Dark, Paula McLain

Their apartment building was the kind of place that would be incomplete without a ghost or two. It was old and brick, four floors high, and wrapped like a horseshoe around a small green courtyard with pink and purple impatiens and a black lamppost in the center like in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Tuesday Mooney Talks To Ghosts, Kate Racculia

Now, for me, one of those paragraphs is vastly better than the other. I’ll bet you can guess which one.

So, what say you, blogiverse? Which paragraph appeals to you more? I’ll take answers in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Sunday Brunch: Descriptions

  1. So…you know my profession, so of course descriptions are required for me. I love them. But they can, I agree, become indulgent. I think the well-placed poetic description can transport…can lift…prose, but if it’s repetitively done, then it becomes miasmic. The counterpoint to that is if you only do it once, then it sticks out awkwardly…it’s like the piece of furniture prominently placed on stage that is never used by the actor. It’s just a no-no.

    So, I vote “aye” on descriptions well-sprinkled and well-written throughout a piece of lit. I have to say I like both above equally, however, for different reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also prefer the shorter one of those. It’s got an evocative zing that (along with humorous ones) I’m a sucker for in a description.

    “The great ships hung motionless in the sky, over every nation on Earth. Motionless the hung, huge, heavy, steady in the sky, a blasphemy against nature. Many people went straight into shock as their minds tried to encompass what they were looking at. The ships hung in the sky in much the same way bricks don’t.” [Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy]

    Liked by 1 person

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