Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Using Description to Draw the Reader Deeper Into the Story


Congratulations to "Lag123", the winner of Beth's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated.

Long, flowing, red hair… check. Violet eyes… check. Chiseled jaw, lock of hair over a prominent brow, broad, muscular shoulders… check, check, check.

Description in a novel can be as dry as bone dust or read like a laundry. But done right, description can draw a reader deeper into the story. Description is as much about the feeling, person or object being described as it is about the character doing the actual describing. This is what writers call deep point of view, taking the reader into the head and heart of a character. Deep point of view allows the reader to see and feel every aspect of the story through the characters experiences, thoughts and feelings.

Here’s an example from my debut novel, Rush. This is the first time the heroine, Mi, sees the hero, Lucas.

Mi turned to follow Crosby and caught sight of a man she’d never seen before, standing against the wall just out of the reach of the stage lights, his face fully shadowed. He was large—well over six feet tall and as broad as a doublewide. Something about the way he stood still, yet humming with energy, caused an answering rhythm to thrum from deep inside her. Her pulse kicked up, generating a near fight or flight sensation that sent her senses into overdrive. Who was he? What was he doing here?

What can we surmise about Mi from this excerpt? Because let’s face it, this description is all about her, not Lucas. It’s about her thoughts and emotions. She describes him as ‘broad as a doublewide’. This tells us something about her background, doesn’t it? She didn’t say ‘broad as columned porch’ or ‘broad as a mansion gate’. The excerpt also tells us about her emotions. She’s frightened and maybe a little titillated, right? She’s attracted to this stranger and that attraction scares her. She’s curious about him— Who is he? What was he doing here? And we get the feeling that she’s going to do whatever it takes to find the answers to her questions.

And now for the male point of view. In this snippet Lucas has just found out some information that puts Mi’s honesty in question. And then he sees her.

Mi came out of the makeup room and glanced around until she spotted him. She smiled, her face lit with what looked like genuine pleasure at the sight of him. His forehead hurt and he realized he was scowling back at her. As she neared, he lost all perspective, his vision narrowing down to a point that began and ended with her as though she were a single candle in a darkened room. She came even with him and he realized he’d forgotten to breathe. With his sudden intake of air came the recognition that this tiny woman could do him more harm than a grenade strapped to his chest. It scared him even more that he might be willing to take that risk.

What do we learn about Lucas’s emotional state here? He’s angry. The scowl says that. Mi distracts him, too, right? He forgets to breathe and doesn’t realize he’s scowling at her until the pain in his forehead registers. She unnerves him. He doesn’t think this outright but we get it from how he compares her to a grenade strapped to his chest. The grenade reference is telling, too. If we didn’t know he was ex-military, we might guess it here. What else does this passage tell us about Lucas? He’s coming to care for Mi, right? Even though he thinks he’ll get hurt, he’s willing to take the chance just to be with her. That’s a powerful revelation and it frightens him.

The key to description is to let the characters do it, not the writer. It’s not me, the author, describing Lucas to Mi, it’s Mi describing Lucas for the reader. And it’s not me describing Lucas’s emotions, it’s him letting us into his thoughts and through his thought process we know not only what he’s thinking, but what he’s feeling. Using description to achieve deep point of view is one of the most powerful tools an author can use. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into the writer’s toolbox.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me, what draws you into a story? Is it the plot, the characters, the setting or something else entirely? I will be giving away a digital copy of RUSH (Kindle or Nook) to one lucky person leaving a comment!

Someone is stalking Miyuki Price-Jones.

As the host of a very successful home shopping TV show that sells adult toys, Mi has become the object of an ex-con’s obsession, requiring the services of ex-Navy SEAL turned bodyguard, Lucas Vega. As the attraction between Lucas and Mi grows, Lucas has a difficult time keeping his feelings for Mi separate from his mission to keep her safe. A mission that is more challenging than anyone could have predicted.

    Damaged by their pasts, Lucas and Mi find more in common then they could have imagined and secrets they thought would tear them apart could be the ties that bind them together forever. But with the stalker growing bolder, Lucas and Mi must learn to trust each other or risk losing more than their hearts.

One of them could lose their life.

Beth Yarnall writes romantic suspense, mysteries and the occasional hilarious blog post. Beth lives deep in the heart of `The O.C.' California with her husband, two sons, and their dog where she is hard at work on her next novel. For more information about Beth and her stories please visit her website- www.bethyarnall.com. She loves to connect with readers on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beth-Yarnall/187061544661981 and Twitter- @BethYarnall

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Aug. 30th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@justromanticsuspense.com with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.



29 comments:

  1. I love romantic suspense...I love law enforcement and military stories...it doesn't matter if the hero is male or female as long as the romance is sexy and seductive. I also like the deep suspense of some of the military themes, thanks for the giveaway I would love to win...lsscarchuk@att.net

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    1. Law enforcement and military heroes (and heroines) are just a few of the reasons I love romantic suspense. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

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  2. For me, it depends a bit on what I'm reading. If I'm reading contemporary romance, I have to love the characters and be emotionally invested in their journey to enjoy the story. If I'm reading romantic suspense (my favourite genre!), I lean more toward plot: I don't need to love (or sometimes, even like!) the characters as long as the suspense is good and the twists keep coming. I'm easy like that :P

    Congrats on the release!

    stalkers00(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. I love a good edge-of-your-seat story, too. Good luck in the drawing, Cris!

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  3. Wow, did I learn a lot with this blog. I guess I never thought about what you could learn so much just by the descriptions. I love romantic suspense best because of the action, but if the characters don't come alive, I just can't get into the book, so I would say characters are more important to me. Love to win a copy.of your book. Trishleroy49 at gmail dot com

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    1. I'm so glad you learned something new from my post. I had fun writing it. Thanks for stopping by and good luck, Trish!

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  4. Thanks for the great reminder on writing description. Good information. What draws me into a story is the interplay between characters...raw emotion that can't be denied. When a writer uses all the senses in their description and helps pull us into the time and place with the character.
    Congrats on the new release. I love romantic suspense and 'Rush' has definitely caught my attention.
    grandmabkr at yahoo dot com

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    1. Bringing all of the senses into the story is another way an author draws the reader into deep point of view. Good luck and thanks for dropping by and commenting, Brenda!

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  5. If I'm reading a contemporary or historical romance, it's character and setting in the first chapter that pulls me in. If it's a romantic suspense - it's a blending of character, setting and plot. Rush is a wonderful read and a great debut novel.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Jann. So glad you liked Rush!

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  6. In romantic suspense it is usually the plot that draws me into a story. The stories that start off with some action usually have me turning pages.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

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    1. Good point, Maureen. You can have great characters, but you also have to give them lots of something to do to keep the reader turning those pages. Thanks for commenting and good luck!

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  7. Great article, Beth. I can always use a good reminder on things like deep point of view. :)I look forward to reading your book. For me, great characters that I care about will draw me into a story every time. Yes, in RS we certainly need an exciting plot, but I still need to connect with the H & H to enjoy the story to the max.
    malvernolson@gmail.com

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    1. For books in a series characters are very important probably more important than the plot. Thanks for stopping by, Mal, and good luck!

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  8. It is when the heroine noticed the hero (or vice versa)for the first time. It intrigues me to find out about the mystery past and what they have to do with their current situation.

    kmccandle(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Good point, Kai. A character's back story can affect the current story. My favorite characters have really interesting or tragic back stories. Good luck and thanks for commenting!

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  9. Nice post. The characters draw me in first.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  10. Thanks for a fun post and congrats on the new release! I'd have to say all of the above! :)

    efender1(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. Best of luck to you and thanks for coming by and commenting, Erin!

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  11. I think the setting is what draws me into a story.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

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    1. The setting can be a character all its own. Good luck in the drawing and thanks for dropping by to comment!

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  12. We have an email entry...

    Dear Beth, for me the story is all about the plot and the characters. A story that has twists and turns and strong characters is essential for me . Also, the longer the book the better. Often, short stories do not have time for the characters to interact on different levels. This is my favorite genre. Thank you, Ann

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    1. Thanks for the email, Ann. So glad we could connect. I like longer books myself both in the writing and reading. Good luck on your entry and thanks for taking the time to join in the fun here!

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  13. I enjoyed your post here Beth.
    For me it is the character that pulls me. But I know that Character, plot & setting are all intertwined.
    Jan

    janet_kerr(at)msn.com

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    1. Characters seem to be the number one answer, but you're correct plot and setting can really bring out the best and challenge characters. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by. Good luck to you!

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  14. I remember one book I had received as a gift years ago... I could not read the thing. It was page after page of descriptions, it was soooo boring. It took me 2 years to finish it. Now I usually read a book in 1 or 2 days depending on size, but that one, oh my goodness!
    Enjoyed reading your post, thank you for sharing with us!

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    1. I think I read that book too, Colleen. :-) Making description count is important in today's novels. Readers want it all and they'll flip through pages and pages of overly drawn out description or give up on the book altogether.
      Thanks for your comments. Good luck!

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  15. My thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented. I had a blast being here on Just Romantic Suspense. Thank you, thank you!

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