Descriptions, From Tell to Show by Cher’ley

This blog by Cher’ley Grogg

She swooped into the book store. Her fiery red lipstick matched her bright red dress which fit her like the skin on an apple. She wore too much sky blue, eye shadow and her cheeks flashed as pink as a Florida Flamingo. Her fluffy, black hair with white roots resembled a bird’s nest. She batted her dark black, fake eyelashes at the clerk. She tilted her head to the side, with a slight smile, and then she licked her lips before she leaned toward the young man. It didn’t seem to bother her that he drew back. She continued with sultry movements, tossing her hair and sticking one curvy hip out. When she was sure she had his full attention she leaned in showing a little cleavage and whispered in her huskiest voice, which now sounded cacophonous, “Where are your books on knitting?”

Did you enjoy this paragraph? I could have said, “The cougar walked into the book store and asked where the knitting books were.”

 

 

I’ve been studying descriptive paragraphs this week. Here’s a clip about deepening the elements. Follow the link to this blog Writing for Success.  for a little more about these next couple of sentences. Grey the color of storm ready sky or the ironic half-smile the felt as familiar to me as a hug. A little more research revealed an essay about the development of entertainment media and how the instructor broke it all down.
In it, she describes TV-watching in her family to make a point about how central TV was as a form of entertainment in the 60’s.

(1) As I was growing up in the 60’s, television was the only entertainment my family knew of the electronic sort. (2) The 7 o’clock nightly news was such an important part of our family that my dad knocked a wall down and built a huge cabinet in its place just to accommodate our 19-inch black and white. (3) No one was allowed to talk or make a sound when the television was on; all eyes were glued to the moving and flickering image. The box commanded absolute respect.(4) In the daytime, “the television needs its rest” my mother would say, as she patted its pseudo-wooden top and covered it with a doilie she had made herself. (5)There is no doubt that TV was as central to our lives as it was to the lives of all our friends during that period. (adapted from an essay by Angeline Chan, used with permission.)

  • Notice the writer’s use of action verbs (knocked, glued) and her use of sensory words (19- inch, black and white, huge, talk, sound, flickering)) to paint a picture of the scene in her living room. In the final sentence, she states the main point of the paragraph: that TV was central in families’ lives during the 60’s. The appearance of a topic sentence at the end of a paragraph, rather than at the beginning is common in descriptive paragraphs, and it works well for this kind of development.

Do you think about these elements when you’re writing?

Give me an example of your descriptive paragraph.

I have a hard time writing descriptive language, because my first writing instructor taught me to be as frugal with words as I could when writing. I don’t think I actually caught on to what he was teaching, but I mostly wrote stripped down paragraphs. Now I’m trying to re-educate myself.

It hasn’t been that long ago since I had a little B/W  TV in our bedroom.

Cropped screenshot of Dan Blocker from the tel...

It got the UHF channel on which we watch PBS and retro shows. I loved Bonanza, B/W or colored.

Do you have suggestions or thoughts about my being retrained or the blog in general? Let’s roll up our sleeves and get descriptive. 

 

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. And she has a new one that is freshly published with 11 other authors. She will have 3 more coming out this summer. 

Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 
Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell
Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE

 

 

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14 Responses to Descriptions, From Tell to Show by Cher’ley

  1. Thank you for tackling a subject we all need help with. Actually, my problem was too much description and too little dialogue when I first started writing. It’s always a learning process isn’t it? The key to being a good writer is to soak up every chance you get to learn, whether it be a class, workshop, seminar, online, or just plain practice.

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  2. Too much description can interfere with a story.

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  3. Mike Staton says:

    In the editing process, I find I have to flush out adjectives. I have a tendency to overdo it. A longtime critter friend (we critique our chapters on Online Writers Workshop of SF, Fantasy and Horror) recently reviewed my chapter 17 of Assassins’ Lair and told me I’d overdone my descriptions, and he gave about 15 examples. I respect his writing, and will tone things down.

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  4. sstamm625 says:

    Good topic, Cher’ley! I like descriptions and sensory detail, but as Mike and Abbie mentioned it can be overdone. In the book I’m reading now, every time a character appears, the author describes what he or she is wearing, every time. Really, do I care that much? A little bit to give a flavor of the character is good; every time is annoying–at least to me.

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  5. Doris says:

    Description is paramount to a story, but like your first paragraph, can be overdone. To be honest, my writing really didn’t take off until I got out of my own way and let the words flow. Not so easy to do, but so easy to say. Thank you for some interesting thoughts. Doris

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  6. Wranglers says:

    Enjoyed the post, and finding real helps as well as the missteps real people make! Thanks for this, I followed the link and found that helpful as well. Keep ’em coming Cher’ley.

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  7. Cher’ley, you wrote, “my first writing instructor taught me to be as frugal with words as I could when writing.” I believe I’m that instructor. I’m afraid my instructions weren’t as clear as they could have been. What I wanted to say is a sentence should contain no words that don’t support or add to the story. I didn’t mean that you should avoid every detail; I meant you should ensure that every word supports its own weight. My words were, “If you can omit a word and the sentence still makes sense, it’s not needed. For instance, your beginning sentence could have been, “My first writing instructor taught me to be frugal with words.” that would have saved 6 words.

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    • Wranglers says:

      Dennis, you weren’t my first instructor. You did say a sentence should not contain any words that didn’t support or add to the story. You are right on saving the 6 words, but I liked the way the other sentence sounded. Sometimes I write longer, because it sounds better to me, a bit more friendly. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comments. Cher’ley

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  8. S. J. Brown says:

    When I read I tend to skim over lengthy descriptions that lead me away from the story. When I write I try to be very brief with descriptions or scatter them here and there giving the reader little tid bits that collect in the readers mind to paint the entire picture.

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