February 15th, 2017

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Writing Excuses 12.7: Description Through the Third Person Lens

Writing Excuses 12.7: Description Through the Third Person Lens

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2017/02/12/12-7-description-through-the-third-person-lens/

Key Points: Learn to let the character's voice, thoughts, and feelings come through when describing, especially in third person. Combine characterization and description! Get specific with what the character notices and does. Pay attention to what they notice, and what they miss. Describe the small things, let the reader imagine the large things. Focus indicates thought -- what the character sees, what they hear. Exercise: try and include every sense in a scene. But don't spend too long! And beware going overboard on all the senses all the time -- no one licks a vase. Add your infodumps in third person to emotion, action, dialogue -- dribble them across a scene. Pick out the important information and avoid the irrelevant infodump. Losing viewpoint? Check the emotional investment in the scene. Make sure you have the right scene. What happens when the main character knows something, but doesn't let the reader know? Frustration! Use focus, something else compelling to keep the main character going, and sometimes, it's just background for the character, no matter how surprising it is for the reader. Or... give the reader the information! Often knowing the secret makes the action more compelling. Or make that other plan a contingency. Think surprising, yet inevitable.

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[Brandon] We are out of time. Mary Anne, you were going to give us some homework?
[Mary Anne] Well, I was just going to say that I love Ursula Le Guin's book, Steering the Craft. It's a very short little how-to-write book. She's got like three chapters with exercises on various variations of third person that I find really helpful. I still… I assign it every semester and I do them again with my students every semester. I get something out of it every time.
[Brandon] Well, excellent. That is your homework. Go read some Ursula Le Guin. You will always find it time well spent, I have found. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.