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Adding Depth

February 26, 2009

Horror stories/novels are nothing without depth. Vivid descriptions along with other elements provide the scares. For example, you’re writing a story or novel and have decided on an one-eyed monster as your bad guy. “One eye” and “monster” are enough to tell the reader it’s not the norm but you have to provide more information for a more guaranteed run-out-of-building-screaming effect. As a horror writer, description has to be my best friend. It’s something I still struggle with. I always feel I don’t offer enough to give it meaning. sends out a newsletter every couple of weeks to those who sign up for it. While I don’t write much young adult anymore, I am a moderator for the children/YA section of a writing site. I like to stay current on resources, upcoming conferences, articles and anything else I could provide to them. In today’s issue, there was a small section on a description technique.

One of the two writers who put out the newsletter (it doesn’t really say who) talks about an assignment their son had in social studies. The assignment was to write a few paragraphs from the perspective of a man or woman waiting placement on a slave ship. The teacher told the class how they could add depth to their story. Basically, the teacher told them to take each element of description and determine whether or not it helps paint the picture for the character.

“These people are locked up right by the sea. What would they hear? The ocean — they’d hear the ocean while they were chained together, sweaty, dirty and hot. To hear the ocean and not be able to jump into it to get clean and cool off must have been awful. What else would they have heard? Seagulls. Seagulls flying free while they were locked in chains.”

When you read that, do you feel like you’re actually there? Does this description mean something? Do you feel description in your novels or short stories provide meaning and depth?

One Comment
  1. March 1, 2009 5:00 pm

    Great post. I wrote a piece the other day that is worth editing some more and sending out. Adding more description is what the story needs. And that piece really does make you feel like you’re there.

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