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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Experimenting with Description

I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis.  I love the Narnia series of novels and all of his writing on Christianity and faith.

  Lewis is known for having "rules for writing" that he shared with young writers in letters.  I've been thinking a lot about rule #4 from the link above when writing lately.  It discusses the use of adjectives.

  He tells the recipient of his letter to not tell the reader how to feel when describing something.  Instead of saying something is "terrible," describe it in such a way to make the reader feel terrified.  Using words like this is lazy and asks the reader to "do my job for me."

  I really like this piece of advice.  It is our job as writers to suck the reader into our world and help them imagine and relate to the look and feel of our world.  So I experimented a little bit last night with a bit of scene setting.  Please read this and then answer a few questions for me below.

  The forest made no sound.  No animals moved about; no birds chirped.  Though the trees grew tall, thick, and close together this deep in the forest, the light of the early morning sun fought through the canopy of leaves and branches above with soft daylight.  

  The air in this part of the forest smelled fresh and clean.  A gentle breeze coaxed the trees to sway their branches slightly to the east.  The wind and branches moved softly without making a sound.  

  The forest floor was clear of debris.  A short, soft grass covered the ground around the trunks of the trees, damp from the morning dew.  Not a single leaf or branch marred the lawn of the forest.

  A lone ray of sunlight shone down through the trees into a small clearing.  At the end of the light sat a single white flower, no more than six inches tall, growing up through the otherwise uniform grass. 

  Jairus could not remember how he arrived, but he felt oddly at home.

So now, time for questions.
  1. How does this passage make you feel about the forest? 
  2. What is missing that you feel you need to know, right now?
I am attempting to describe something that is peaceful and inviting, even if a little strange.  Jairus feels at home, but the scene will continue to describe why he is out of place here.

Thank you for any feedback!

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  1. Except for the first paragraph I would describe the setting as idyllic. Maybe even too good to be natural in an elf-y kind of way.

    But the first paragraph made me think that something was wrong here. Silence in a forest signals danger to me. And that colors the last sentence to feel like maybe even the light isn't acting right. Through the rest of it I was waiting for something scary to jump out.

    Good description!

  2. Thanks for the comment Aaron. I would say you read it exactly like I wanted you to read it. :-)

    Did I get you a little nervous, even though everything *should* be OK?

    It sounds like you are anticipating what happens next?