Over the last weeks, we have been looking at various ways to write vivid descriptions and weave them into the story rather than stopping the action to tell readers what someone or something looks like. Now it’s time to put it all together.
Since comparison is a powerful tool that helps tremendously when discussing writing techniques, I have inserted below two versions of a short excerpt from the beginning of my new novel, Conspiracy: Fast Track Thriller #2. The actual text is on the right-hand side. On the left side, I re-wrote the text with generic description that stops the action.
As you read through each section, evaluate the feel and flavor of each style. Which one draws you in more? Which one makes you feel more like you’re right there with the character. Where do you see action added to the descriptions of characters, objects, settings, emotions, and action?
|Thoughts of the upcoming Senate hearing filled Joanne’s soul with depression as she rode the elevator to the sub-basement of the Bio-Logic building. Lady Anne was gone, and her secrets with her. Why did the Senate need to revive the issue? Didn’t they understand the risks?||Joanne Van der Haas’s spirits sank as low as the elevator she rode into the depths of the Bio-Logic building. She closed her eyes and sagged against a wall. Lady Anne was gone, and her secrets with her. Why did the Senate need to revive the issue? Didn’t they understand the risks?|
|Painful memories resurfaced and stirred up confusion as the stepped off the elevator and through the maze of discarded furniture strewn about the large storage room||The spirit of Lady Anne seemed to swirl through the small space, stirring up confusion. Painful memories coiled around Joanne until her breaths came in short gasps. They followed her off the elevator and through the maze of discarded desks, chairs, and office machinery to the far side of the large storage room.|
|Her motions on automatic, she pressed the faux knot on the paneling, located on the far side of the room. The newly installed retina scanner recognized her, and its acceptance opened a hidden door to her left.||Her motions on automatic, she pressed a faux knot in the paneling, then leaned into the soft glow of the newly installed retina scanner it exposed. When the light snapped off, she blinked several times before stepping to the hidden door which opened to her left.|
|She trudged into the director’s office, a spacious room decorated with modern art. An avant-garde, metal and glass desk stood as its centerpiece. The moment she crossed the threshold, her boss, jumped up from behind the desk and greeted her with a bear hug. George Sullivan was a big man with an athletic build. His size made Joanne’s 5’5” frame seem even smaller than it was. “Jo, it’s good to see you.”||Her feet carried her into the director’s office one slow step at a time. The moment she crossed the threshold, her boss, George Sullivan, rounded the corner of his avant-garde, metal and glass desk. “Jo, it’s good to see you.” His tall, athletic bulk nearly engulfed her in his usual welcoming hug.|
|When he released her, he passed a note to her.The action alarmed her. He passed her a message in his own office? In the headquarters of the country’s most clandestine intelligence agency?||When he released her, one of his hands brushed against hers. His thick fingers pressed something small and square into the palm of her hand.She bit the inside of her lip to hold back any reaction. He passed her a message in his own office? In the headquarters of the country’s most clandestine intelligence agency?|
|George placed his hands on her shoulders. “How are you holding up?” He had smoky gray eyes under a full head of almost-black hair. His gaze held hers and radiated sincerity.“We have our good days and bad days. After several doctor appointments before the trip here, today has been a bad day.”||George placed his hands on her shoulders. “How are you holding up?” His smoky gray eyes, under a full head of almost-black hair, held her gaze as though trying to telegraph his sincerity.She shrugged. “We have our good days and bad days. After several doctor appointments before the trip here, today has been a bad day.”|
|As she dropped into a chair in front of his desk, slipped the note into a pocket. To cover the movement, she pulled out an elastic scrunchie She had long, curly brown hair, and pulled it into a ponytail, then took off her coat.||She dropped into a chair in front of his desk. With the ease of long experience, she slipped into the unexpected role and tucked the note into a pocket of her winter jacket. To cover the movement, she pulled out an elastic scrunchie and gathered her long, curly brown hair into a ponytail before taking her heavy coat off.|
The same information is included in both sets of text, yet they feel different, don’t they? One gives you the information, while the other lets you experience it. That’s the difference between plain old description and vivid description.