Lynn Lovegreen | Playing with Description

A few years ago, I was trying to write about a character who was so real to me in my head, but I couldn’t get her on paper well enough to show her to my readers adequately. After several attempts, I took a long walk, pondering how to bring her to life. I went to a mentor to find an example of what I wanted to do—Charles Dickens. 

Dickens is famous for his vivid characters, and I wondered how he did it, so I looked through David Copperfield for an example. I noticed that Dickens usually introduces a character with a paragraph or so of physical description and mentions any ticks or dialect used. Then he shows all the rest in the character’s actions and dialogue. If you look at Mr. Macawber, or Aunt Betsey Trotwood or any of them, that is the standard pattern. Of course, other writers have different tools in their toolbox for description, too. I read Dickens and other authors when I took Deb Vanasse’s Craft Intensive through 49 Writers earlier this year.

Want to try it with me? We’ll do a similar exercise, but a shorter version of this, in my workshop Playing With Description at the Machetanz Arts Festival on June 5th. We’ll look at descriptions and discuss what works, then play around with a few exercises to practice. Here’s the official description:

Good writers use description to set the scene or reveal character. We’ve all read a great line or sentence that describes perfectly, or cringed when a writer does too much or not enough. But how do we do that effectively? This class will explore description through reading and discussing examples, playing around with writing exercises, and finding what works for the writer in a specific audience, genre, and style.

This is one of several workshops that 49 Writers members will present at the Machetanz Arts Festival the weekend of June 4th and 5th. Other workshop titles include: 

  • Capturing Character: Mechanics of Writing Great Characters in Fiction & Nonfiction 
  • Finding Yourself in a Poem 
  • How Shall I Begin? Starting Your Piece with a Bang! 
  • The Sphere of Writing
  • Walking the Line

We’ll also have two panel discussions, You’ve Written Something, Now What? and Writing About Alaska Without a Moose. Learn more and sign up at here.

Lynn Lovegreen is a longtime member of 49 Writers, and the coordinator for the Anchorage Remembers project. She is a retired English teacher, but promises not to correct your spelling or grammar in this class. She has published five young adult historical romances set in Alaska.

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