Writing with imagery
This will be closer to a rant than anything, but when using imagery, it doesn’t have to be used in every scene with every object or sound. Use your senses, but use them wisely. Poetry in a novel doesn’t lure readers if it’s overdone. There has to be story in there, and using two pages for a scene isn’t story.
What am I talking about? Here’s an example:
Meg dropped her hand into the rows lined with small hills formed by the ongoing current, which she now swam against and struggled to reject. More vivid colors danced in front of her, this time slowing beside her like a colony of paintings only seen by God or the imagination. Pink scales glimmered in the light that broke through the water’s surface, as well as yellow, green, and every other shade of blue and black. She imagined the names of all the fish swishing their fins around her but she let the colors dazzle her as their scales glistened in the smooth rays of the sun that broke the surface of the water into the depths of the sandbar. The bubbles drifting from her mouth swiftly made their way up to meet the sky.
The scene setup could go on for quite some time. It might have sounded nice and could have possibly been written well enough to get you to read the whole thing. The fact is, your readers won’t. If they’re reading scenes set up to look like artistic displays, your book might be set on the table, or worse, back on the shelf. This isn’t a story. You know her name is Meg, and you know she’s underwater. In one paragraph, you should know a lot more than that. You understand that she loves what she sees around her, too, but what does that do for the story other than add a pretty sight that would eventually get boring? Nothing.
You don’t watch an opening scene to a movie for the opening scene. In fact, you probably wish it would fast forward past those exposition scenes and get to the point. Mountains. Great. Trees. Awesome. Animals all over the place with children laughing. Hurry up and tell me what’s going on. I know that’s what I think. It’s even worse when something is actually happening and you still don’t know what’s going on. Someone running through the woods wildly and two minutes later, the only thing you learn is that she’s being chased by someone for some reason. By that point, I’m only watching to spite the part of me begging me to shut it off.
Again, like I said, this is more of a rant than anything. But, you might be wondering how you can stop writing excellently beautiful scenes that include elaborate descriptions that use the senses to such a wonderful level of showing, which you’re taught to do. Well, it’s easier than you think. That scene up there? This is what it should have been before I moved on:
Meg dropped her hand into the rows lined with small hills formed by the ongoing current, which she now swam against and struggled to reject. More vivid colors danced in front of her, this time slowing beside her like a colony of paintings only seen by God or the imagination. Pink scales glimmered in the light that broke through the water’s surface, as well as yellow, green, and every other shade of blue and black.
That’s being generous. I could chop another sentence if I wanted, and if it was the opening scene, that paragraph would come in at the bottom of page one or two. But, that’s another post for another time. Use what’s necessary to describe a scene. Don’t say something because you can make it pretty. Make it relevant. Once your readers know what you’re describing or saying, move on. Go to the next sentence. Give them the next question or answer or clue or whatever it is you’re giving them. But don’t draw out a scene because you can. It’s pretty, but it’s not engaging. You can argue, but if you’re a writer, you’re also a different kind of reader. You read prose more than you read stories. This means you look at style and enjoy it. This is not what a reader does. A reader—an average one—wants the character, the imagery, the plot, the exposition, and the denouement.
Give it to them.