Beat Back the Beast

That’s right. Beat it back. But what is it?

For me, The Beast in writing is my tendency to write way too much detail. Whether it’s character description, backstory or setting description, I want to load it on. And what I have learned during my writing life is that less is more. It’s okay to pile all that description in during the first draft. Let it all hang out. But then, as you rewrite and edit, cut it back. Way back. Beat back the Beast.

And this Beast can be hard to tame. The thing is, the Beast of too much description can hold back your reader, sometimes even causing the reader to put your book or story down, perhaps never to pick it up again.

Using less description allows your reader to fill in the blanks, providing their own details. In my manuscripts, I usually end up cutting out two of every three lines of first draft description. I rewrite the sentence I save, choosing more descriptive words. What I’m left with is better writing.

This is particularly true when writing about the setting.

In my writing, I want the setting to be as much of a character as the people. Setting influences the character’s emotions and drives the action. Of course setting includes a place, but it can also be the weather, the season, the time of day or night.

Think of it this way, if you stood at a window of your home for 24 hours and took a picture every hour on the hour, no two pictures would be the same. The light would change, the shadows would change, the colors would change. Artists know this, and so do writers. Along with those subtle changes, our emotions change. What seems totally unthreatening in the morning can become very frightening by late evening.

And those emotional changes are key to your story. Truthfully, all action is about how your characters relate to the setting of the story.  In another place, another time of day, they might not react the same way. It’s crucial to the success of the story that the reader feel the same emotions as your story people.

When setting becomes real to your readers, the story becomes atmospheric, charged with emotion. That’s good. That keeps them reading.

Writers – remember to Beat back the Beast. You’ll be glad you did.

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