Question: Arline, one member of my group says I have too much description, another that I need more detail. I do try to "show, don't tell" and maybe some of my description is telling...because I don't always see everything clearly in my mind. Is there an easy way to do description without "telling?"
Answer: Yes. Use what you have. That sounds simple, doesn't it. You would have thought I would know that from Jump Street, but I didn't. I thought if I wrote a story about a wedding, I had to make up the church, spend a lot of time picturing what it was like, creating every detail in my mind before I wrote. Then I'd go on to do the same with the wedding dress, and then the next imaginary detail. Now I just describe my church, or a church I have been in, a bell skirted wedding dress I saw in a magazine, the lace-encrusted shirt my son received as part of the rented tux when he acted as his friend's best man. The secret is the reader will take the few details I include and imagine a church of his or her own. Then as long as the characters are real, everything else will be, too.
Specific Images are the key. And One Specific detail, instead of piles of adjectives. Look at the following and tell me which is the better description. Which is telling?
This way? Late for her job because her car wouldn't start, my son’s new girlfriend drove his shiny little red car to work and got stopped by a state trooper for speeding. The uniformed trooper had no sense of humor and he handed her a printed white speeding ticket.
Or this way? When her car wouldn't start, Kathy "borrowed" her boyfriend’s red '63 Austin-Healey Sprite convertible. Her blonde hair flew in the 80-mile-per-hour breeze. Flashing lights brought her up short. The Trooper called her, “Ma’am,” but frowned as he leaned down to hand her the ticket.
And yes, my son does have a red, 1963, Healey. His back surgery went well and he is coming along fine, by the way....