Rule #9 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #9

9: Describe the environment in ways that are pertinent to the story. And try to make such descriptions active. Instead of describing a book lying on a table, have your psycho-killer protagonist pick it up, glance at it and move it to the arm of the sofa. He needs something to do to break up those long speeches, right?

This is one of my favorite simple rules.  One thing that bores me is when I read “Jessica walked into the bathroom.  The white toilet sat to her right.  The counter loomed before her, and a window let in the sunshine from the left.

“Ugh!  I just hate that.  However, she can walk over and close the window, check her acne in the mirror, and dust some cobwebs from behind the toilet, and then you have your setting dispersed in the action.  Get it?

Are you a “setting dumper?”  Go ahead, it’s okay to admit to it.  Now let’s grab one of those overly-described settings and make it active.  Let’s see how you do!

JenniFer_Eaton Sparkle__F


12 responses to “Rule #9 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. I think I’ve probably committed this offense, although I don’t think it was that bad! Could always make them more active though. Great tip 🙂

  2. These are GREAT. My problem is I don’t get into too much description.

  3. I usually start out with tons of static dumping and then edit it out as I revise. I think my brain just works that way. It has to “see” the scene on paper and then turn the description into action. Not the most efficient way to write, but it seems I can’t whip my brain into being more efficient, although I’m trying.

  4. Having this problem with an assignment that was due Sunday. (Thank God for extensions!). Now to approach this setting in a new light. Sandy

  5. That’s good advice, Jennifer. Sometimes, I am guilty of this, I must confess, although I try to weed out those stagnant scenes in the final edits. If there is a place, like a castle, a fort or a domed city that is paramount to my story, I like to sketch it out or pick up maps (or travel guides) for real places, so I can be consistent when my character moves around the space. For example, if the throne room is to the right of the Grand Staircase, my character will mount the stairs, take the hallway to the right in order to enter, walk ten steps and bow to the king sitting on his throne (or something to that effect). I’ll describe a sunset in a sentence instead of a paragraph, too, just to move the action along as quickly as possible. I’d hate to think my reader gets bored because the descriptions are too long and dull. 🙂

  6. Aaaaand…guilty. Darn.

  7. Love this. Great tips!