UWT #1 – Opening with Description

Standard

UWT stands for Unsolicited Writing Tips.  I’ll be providing my own advice for fiction (and some non-fiction, perhaps) writing that I also give to my college students  This could very well be another one of my projects that never gets off the ground, or it could become my real motivation for writing anything.  I’m currently reading a student’s work.  She’s committed a short-story writing sin in my book.  The entire first paragraph is an onslaught of descriptive words and images about the central character (age, height, hair color, hobby, etc.).  This seems rushed and unnecessary.  So, here’s what I’m going to do.  Since it’s uncouth to share any student’s actual writing without his/her permission, I’m only going to copy-paste my comment and suggestion.

In short, my first UWT is to flesh out your characters over time.  Let them have time to breathe.  Let your reader have time to learn and piece them in the same way you constructed them.

——

Comment after reading paragraph 1:

This type of opening covers some basics, but it’s still very bland. Being “about” an age or height is inexact. It prevents the reader from creating a crisp picture.

Compare your first paragraph to this one.

Ericka, a slender sixteen year old girl, preferred grazing alone through garage sales over oohing with ditzy classmates over brand-name purses.

Here, I’ve identified the age and touched on her preference to be alone, as well as her affinity for rummage sales. Let some of the other physical details out more slowly as well. You’re creating a movie in the head of your reader. Don’t let it become one page from a coloring book.

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