Sunday, February 18, 2007


For Valentine's Day, The Boy and I took our annual romantic getaway to Williamsburg, VA. As usual, we had an awesome time and came back with 6 cases of wine - always one of the highlights of the trip. This year we even had dinner with George Washington which sounds hokey but was fascinating.

Anyways, that's not the point of this post.

The point is, on our way there, when we were near Richmond, VA, The Boy pointed out all the seagulls flying around a parking lot. And it hit me: seagulls!

See, my current WIP has something to do with the ocean. There may be scenes involving the ocean at some point, but I don't know yet.* On the drive down I was thinking about what it would be like for my protagonist to approach the ocean. What she would notice: the heaviness of the air, that smell of salt, sounds.

But it had never occurred to me about the seagulls. How well before she even got close to the ocean or anything having to do with the ocean that there would be seagulls flying around. That the seagulls would arrive on scene well before anything else: sounds, smells, etc. They would be a huge clue that the ocean was somewhere nearby (and I use the term nearby very loosely!) I just couldn't believe I'd forgotten about the seagulls!

The experience made me wonder what else I'm forgetting - what other details would complete the scenes I've already written?

As writers I know that we all struggle to incorporate all of the senses in our writing and that we all have our own "sense" weakness. I tend to forget to put in smells.** I have to constantly remind myself to deepen descriptions beyond just appearance with sounds, tastes, smells (I think I do ok with touch but I'm sure I could do better). Of course there's always a balance - no one wants a rundown of every sense with every new description; instead, we as writers have to pick and choose what is most important.

What do y'all have to remind yourself to describe? As readers, what stands out to you the most? Has anyone else forgotten something like the "seagulls"? How do you remember these sorts of details?
*Yet another example of my seat-of-the-pants writing style. Seriously, when I re-read that sentence I have to laugh: I may have a scene with the ocean but don't know yet? Sigh...
**Sometimes one sense can be very important to a story. When I think of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy, I remember smells because it is a key plot aspect.


Diana Peterfreund said...

How very RETURN OF THE KING. Remember when Legolas sees the white gulls of the coast and hears the call of the sea and knows he can never again be happy in the woods?

I like it!

Miri said...

*Yet another example of my seat-of-the-pants writing style. Seriously, when I re-read that sentence I have to laugh: I may have a scene with the ocean but don't know yet? Sigh...

Console yourself in this: I have a character who might be the villain, but I don't know yet. :)

Sensory details are one of the most important, overlooked things in literature today, as far as I'm concerned. (Then again, that might be an unfortunate side-effect of reading primarily YA. Does adult lit do that kind of thing better? -makes a mental note to read The Boleyn Inheritance as soon as possible-)

Power to the seagulls, in all their squawking goodness.

Miri said...

By the way, tag, you're it. :)


Erica Ridley said...

What do y'all have to remind yourself to describe?

Er, ALL the senses, actually. My first drafts look more like screen plays than anything else. My CPs say, "Well, this was sure snappy dialogue and all, but where the hell are they?" and I'm like, "Oh. Is that important?"


Just today, a CP returned a scene that actually wasn't for critiquing, just a here's-where-I-am thing, and she made a note like, "Funny! And I'm sure you know you need some setting and stage directions so I won't mention that." (She DID mention it, didn't she? The sly dog) And of course, I totally *didn't* know it was absent because I can never tell during the first draft. So I'm glad she slyly slipped that crit in there.

Way to go with remembering 4 out of 5! =)

Patrick Alan said...

He rubbed his hand across the early evening gristle on his chin. He leaned back in his ergonomical office chair until it reached the comfortable point where is softly squeaked.
Use all five senses every 250 words he thought. How am I ever going to do that?
He took a pull on his now cold coffe-mate flavored coffee and reached out to his keyboard once more. Clicking the timer, he began to type.
thirty minutes or 500 words, whichever comes second
The backlit monitor splashed light across his softly tanned face as the keys clicked and sounds crashed onto the page, tastes dripped from the corners, sites appeared before him, the creature's slimy hands reached out to grab his mind.

Wait, can you use eating to evoke both smell and taste?

Unsure of himself, he checked his pits to see how well his new deodorant held up through a long day of typing.

Not well he thought.

Carrie Ryan said...

Patrick - you cracked me up!

Erica and Miri - I think that's what first drafts are for. Figuring it out, getting the story down. At least, that's what I use them for!