Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Secrets of Writing Unique and Non-Cliched Details

Okay let's be real for a minute. Writing gorgeous details isn't the most exciting part of writing a book. Usually the best parts to write are the drama, tension, romance, or action sequence. Details schmeetails. 

If you're like me, adding in original and unique details is one of the last things you do in a draft. I'll usually pound out the juicy stuff and then be all, oh yeah. I should probably describe this location/this character trait/the weather

So how do you get inspired to write details that will make your readers double back because--wow!--maybe that was an awesome way to describe someone's hair?

Well, my friends, I'm here to provide you with some cheats to writing original, gorgeous details so you can be the next Maggie Stiefvater (I mean, maybe. No promises. She is phenomenal in the details department.)

I know don't about you, but I wouldn't call myself a fashion expert. BUT I do want my character's choice of clothes to stand out if that's what makes them unique. 

The Cheat: I go to tons of clothing websites--Forever 21H&M, Nordstroms--and find a top or outfit I think my character's would wear. There's usually a quick description of the outfit under the picture which describes the design or fabric. Take that and put your own twist on it for a character outfit triggers the imagery for your readers. 

Instead of: shirt; pants; shoes
Try: floral grunge blouse; distressed jeans; brogue boots

Some people don't have this problem, but I do. When I'm involved in my story and world, I sometimes don't have a clear picture of what my characters look like.

The Cheat: This is why I like using LookBook. I'll usually scroll around on there until I'm like, THAT'S my character. And it's sort of creepy because these are real people just trying to show you how fashion-savy they are. BUT this does allow you to scroll through their LookBook profile and gather different images so you have plenty to look back on. So next time you're like, what does Side Character C look like again? You can go to that profile and be all, okay. I got this. 

There is only so much chocolate brown eyes and silky blonde hair I can take. Seriously. Nix those cliches with paint samples.

The Cheat: If I'm stuck at describing a building color or character's eyes, I just look at Behr's paint samples for some creativity juice. There are THOUSANDS of different colors and each has a unique name, so play around with some descriptions until you find the perfect one.

Some examples: rich sequoia; shadowed, ashy walls; eyes as blue as a glacier bay 

Location, Location, Location.
Sometimes I write books set in places I've never been before. Like, why would I even do that? I don't know. But there's TONS of awesome tools you can use to make sure you're descriptions are accurate.

The Cheat: Google maps. This may be obvious, but there's a "street mode" (I think that's what it's called) where you can actually stroll around through different parts of the world. This isn't really necessary if your world is made up, but for those who want accuracy, it helps. Also, Yelp. Once time I was writing about a restaurant I'd never been to and I was able to nail the descriptions based on pictures people uploaded on this particular restaurant's Yelp page.

What's That Non-Cliched Smell?
Smell that? It definitely doesn't smell like cliches.

The Cheat: If you're having trouble coming up with different scents, try It doesn't matter if you haven't heard of the perfume before. You can just read the description for creative juices and--bam--maybe you'll be able to describe That One Character's house or how the inside of Character XYZ's car smelled. Also? And this will sound weird, but read shampoo labels. It helps with generating clever descriptions.

Not every house has to have marble counter tops. There are tons more textures I bet you didn't know about (because I didn't).

The Cheat: Home Depot. There's so many types of wood and stone descriptions with nice little pictures available for your creative juices.

Making Your Descriptions Flow Nicely
So now you have some tools to help you with some ace descriptions. But how do you make them flow in a way that makes readers stop to relish in your words?

The Cheat: This can be different for everyone. Sometimes I search for poems on tumblr or (although not all of it is fabulous--fair warning). Sometimes I get in the mode by reading some of my favorite song lyrics or watching a few music videos. If you're in that mindset, I think it helps the beauty of your words flow easier.

And remember the five senses. Love them. Take them. Use them to your advantage.

Hope these cheats help you in your writing adventures!

Other Sources:

Farrah Penn enjoys staying up way too late and making up for it in large quantities of coffee. On top of her love for reading books with memorable characters, she also enjoys internet memes, yoga, and her adorably bratty dog. When she’s not rushing to complete marketing projects at work, she’s writing and daydreaming about traveling the world. Farrah writes YA and is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary.

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6 secret replies:

  1. Great post! Sometimes I worry about cliches in my writing and try to avoid them as much as possible, no hair like the sun or eyes like the sky here!

    Vyki @ On The Shelf

  2. Fantastic post! I write historicals, and I'll add that you can find intricate descriptions of jewels and period clothing on antiques sites and on Pinterest.

  3. Awesome! Adding this to favorites!

  4. I actually LOVE writing all those details! Although I fall down on the smell portion at times. I am a sucker for description- furniture, clothes, and especially- *gasp horror* the weather! :D