On Descriptive Writing, Character Development and Other Stuff


I follow a few blogs, mostly those written by other authors whose opinions I trust. One of the finest I’ve come across lately is written by Sarah A. Hoyt (http://accordingtohoyt.com/author/accordingtohoyt/). She hits the proverbial nail square on its little head when it comes to the nitty-gritty of writing.  In her most recent post, she discussed the recurring problem of character description. I’ve seen several blog posts dealing with the same issue recently, and I’ve even written on this in a few of my own posts. But Sarah does have a way with words, and as I mentioned earlier, she’s spot on. Essentially, her message is ‘Don’t overdo it’.

Here’s my take on this subject: Give the reader just enough information to enable him (or her) to build an image of who that person is, what he is feeling and where he is at that time. Just enough information to get your message across. It is very easy to over-describe; to bog the reader down in paragraphs or even pages of who, what, when where and why. A picture really is much more valuable to a writer than a  thousand words can ever be. So give the reader a snapshot and get on with writing what really matters to the reader – what’s happening right then, who’s involved and where they are. 

Setting up a scene, dressing your characters, explaining relationships and so on is guaranteed to slow down the pace of your tale and bore your readers to tears. So don’t do that. “Show, don’t tell” is an axiom we should do well to burn into our little brains.  Descriptive writing can be problematic in many ways, so it’s best to keep it to a minimum.

Besides, the reader is at least as involved in writing your story (in his/her head) as you are, so let him carry some of the load for you. That gets him involved, and makes him feel some ownership of the tale you’re spinning.

People want to read about people. While the plot is central to the story, use it as a vehicle to show how your characters behave in the situations you dump them into. Show the reader how your characters change and adapt to their environment. How they grow over the course of the story.

I’ve got a few events coming up in the next month or so:

15 – 16 October – Orange Park Winter Festival, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, corner of Kingsley Rd. and Park Ave.  Orange Park, Fl

22 October – Calvary United Methodist Church Harvest Festival, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, 112 Blanding Blvd, Orange Park, Fl.

5 November – Middleburg Historic Festival, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, 2102 Palmetto St, Middleburg, Fl

14 November, 10:00 am – WOCA-AM Radio interview to promote “Twisted Key”

19 November, Book signings at both “A Novel Idea” bookstores in Ocala, Fl:

Silver Springs Store – 12:00 – 2:00 pm
College Ave store – 4:00 – 6:00 pm

There area  few other events coming up, but I don’t have dates for them, yet.

My web site – www.garyshowalter.com will be undergoing a face-lift over the next few months. It really needs it…


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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