Descriptions and the Author’s Voice

At the moment I’m reading Game of Thrones on my Kindle and I have to say I think it’s making me a better writer.

George R.R. Martin has this amazing way of describing the world he’s created. It’s a very difficult thing to define, but as I continue to read it he throws in these amazing similes and metaphors that surprise me.

It’s interesting because obviously I’m reading these passages and they are making me notice them. So I stop. I think WOW! Then I continue. I’d like to think that the kind of people who read his books are the kind to share in this experience. It does worry me slightly that if you are reading it and perhaps are not enjoying it quite as much as I am (seriously?) that perhaps descriptions of this ilk may jar with the narrative, and maybe pull these readers too far out of the story.

I’m going to have to find an example of what I mean… Hang on…

Rather annoyingly, I hadn’t learnt to highlight passages on my Kindle when I read the passages I’m trying to explain. And there’s no way I will find them now, short of re-reading what I’ve just read.

I did find, however, these:

The rising sun sent fingers of light through the pale white mists of dawn.

Ned put ice in his voice.

These may seem simple sentences, but they each hold favour with me, purely because Martin has described things that I may well have described in my book, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have described the light through the mists as fingers. And I most certainly wouldn’t have turned a character’s dialogue cold by literally describing it as putting ice in his voice.

I really wish I had highlighted the passages that made me stop and WOW when I read them, and I plan to do that as I carry on reading.

Anyway, the reason I think that Martin is making me a better writer is his ability to WOW with description. I’d like to be able to WOW with description.

My, I’d probably have to say, problem with the way I describe a scene is I sort of do it from my protagonist’s point of view. The book is of course from Crystal’s point of view, but what I mean is it’s not written in first person narration. There’s very much the author’s voice and so is written in third person, but I do take the narrative as if Crystal and the author, and by extension the reader, experience everything at the same time.

So when it comes to description, I guess I have been describing things in a way accessible to Crystal. Consequently, the author’s voice is not as WOWing as I would like.

In the passages I have just written for chapter 14, I have allowed my author’s voice a bit of freedom and what has happened, miraculously, is a good piece of writing; in my opinion anyway.

 

She pulled out a dagger. Crystal’s smile faltered like a candle being extinguished. Both aunts started to laugh. But it wasn’t a normal laugh; it was more like a cackle. It echoed through the kitchen, bouncing off the solid wood of the counter, the shiny metal of the upturned saucepans on the dish-drainer and the ceramic tiled floor.

            Lightening struck the front garden. The thunder rumbled above them. Their cackle met the thunder in a jousting match that seemed to swell in her ears. For a moment it was sinister. But then the room felt warm again. Auntie Sis and Edna turned to each other and embraced. Crystal saw Auntie Edna wipe the happy tears away from her eyes and Auntie Sis held onto her emerald pendant, wrapping it tightly in her fist so that none of the green light reflected through her white skin.

 

This passage feels like quite a good example. Crystal’s smile faltered like a candle being extinguished is only a small sentence but somehow manages to capture how her smile would disappear in these circumstances. Because it is her aunt holding the dagger, she’s not afraid at first, but then her other senses capture other atmospheric devices, the cackle and how it echoes through the room, the lightning followed by the thunder and how it met the cackle in a jousting match that seemed to swell in her ears.

Even the description a jousting match illustrates what I mean. Would Crystal describe a laugh and a thunder rumble meeting like this? Or is this more the author’s voice? I think it’s a good description but it sort of jars from Crystal’s perspective.

But I like it because of that! It doesn’t pull the reader out of the narrative, but it is the writer flexing their writing-muscles. The issue I may have with it is that I haven’t consistently described like this in the other 13 chapters. It is something I’m going to have to address if this kind of describing continues, which I hope it does because I think (and hope) that it makes for a better reading experience.

For a moment it was sinister. But then the room felt warm again. I really like this too because I didn’t have to describe the room as cold before describing how it returned to warm. And I like that! I implied that it had turned cold without having to say that. I hope that I have used devices such as this in the previous chapters, if I haven’t then there is room for them.

Further on in the same scene there is a paragraph which describes the gems and stones that have been dotted around the room. These stones are all different in name and description and have been chosen because of their affinity with this particular part of the book. The paragraph in question is most certainly the author’s voice, because it calls the gems by name and goes on to describe their appearance; these are facts that Crystal would not know.

It is possible that this paragraph would jar with a reader and pull them out of the narrative. It is an exercise for the writer and I’m afraid that if it feels like one, and isn’t adding to the scene then it shouldn’t be there. But it’s a lovely paragraph. I like the way I’ve described them and because they are witches, and this is Halloween, these gems serve a purpose; they enrich the descriptive surroundings and give a nice depth.

I had thought about having the aunts describe them but that feels like needless dialogue that isn’t particularly interesting. I may have to find a way for the descriptions to still be there but in a better more clever way.

I know this seems like a terribly scrupulous analysis of my work, and it is, but this blog is about the writing process; I’m supposed to write about writing, and these little niggles and worries that I am feeling make for an interesting blog post, I hope.

I’m still on my first draft of The Moon Machine and mainly in a first draft I get the plot down on paper. It’s the dialogue that tends to take centre stage because, for me, that it what moves the story forwards. So on my second draft I will be paying close attention to descriptions and the author’s voice, after all, I have a voice and what is a book if not a way to get it heard?

I am now multi-screened. Next stop, book completion!
I am now multi-screened. Next stop, book completion!
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