Today’s post is not for lazy writers but for smart ones. We won’t be skipping descriptions in our scenes because we’re tired or have some better things to do on our mind than writing (like binge-watching Stranger Things). No, we’re here for real until we writers became authors (there’s a great blog with lots of helpful content exactly for that, by the way).
I’ll show you 2 simple but natural ways how to skip description in your scene that will help you move your story along, without harming any details, setting and pacing.
Why would you want to skip description?
A good question. And probably every writer should answer it for themselves.
I can speak from my experience and remember a particular scene that, if described as it should have been according to my plan, would have added unnecessary details. It’s a scene of violence, a hero defending a girl and slaying monsters with his sword. And as I’ve been writing a fantasy book for an audience including teenage readers and young adults, I decided I’d better leave those bloody details off.
But that’s my reason. You will have yours, it all depends on a story you’re writing.
- Perhaps you want to skip a scene or a part of the description because you want your character to miss something and learn or notice it only further down the story path.
- Perhaps you’re building a mystery and don’t want your readers to find the answers earlier than they are supposed to.
- Perhaps you have something else on your mind.
Whatever your reason is for avoiding describing what you really don’t want to describe, here’s a couple easy ways to pull it off naturally.
Trick 1. Make your character close their eyes
You can use this trick almost universally, for any type of character, but it works best for characters who are naturally susceptible to fear: young girls, little green aliens crashed down on a hostile planet, marines who just lost their rifle trying to escape from an ancient evil god, whatever.
Or, you can make even your strongest and bravest character close their eyes because of a flash, or of a wizard’s spell, or of a monster’s tail lash in the eyes. Get creative!
So how do you do this? Basically, you just make you character close their eyes (or shut their ears with their palms, if you want to ‘turn off’ their other sense) and miss a part of what’s happening around them. But first, make sure that the scene the part of which you’re going to omit is actually told from that character’s point of view, or else it won’t make sense if your reader is looking at the events through a different character’s eyes.
To give you an example of how it can work, let’s get back to the scene I mentioned above.
It is a scene from my fantasy book How to Save a Princess I’ve been writing for already 5 years. The princess and her gardener travel through the underground maze of caves and find themselves in a lair of the monsters. Eple the gardener draws his sword to defend the princess, and here I could spill out so many juicy details about how he slices the monsters in parts, right? Except that I didn’t want my readers to see this, so I chose not to show it. I used an elegant trick of describing the scene from the princess’s point of view and closing her eyes for a couple minutes when Eple did his job of saving her from monsters.
It was completely natural: the princess was so afraid she couldn’t help but tried to hide from danger. And what’s a better hiding way than pretending it’s not real? If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist – that’s what children think when they close their eyes or burrow themselves beneath their blanket. And that’s the thinking behind my princess’s act, too. She’s still such a child in many ways, she’s only 16.
Trick 2. Make your character swoon
Another good trick to avoid describing a part of a scene you, for some reason, don’t want to describe is a good old swoon. It can be a natural way out for you, bringing along its benefits of characterization (it says a lot about a person who swoons, doesn’t it?), but alas, it isn’t as universal as closing one’s eyes trick and it has some limitations.
For one, you probably won’t let your male characters swoon – what’s a trait it is in a man, right? Unless you’re writing a comical character like Rincewind the wizard from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, of course.
Another thing to consider with a swoon as a trick to avoid some descriptions is that a person who falls into a swoon misses the scene completely. It may not be obvious, but compare swooning to the first trick I mentioned:
- If a character doesn’t see something, they still can hear it or experience with their other senses (unless they’re deaf, of course, but that’s a very rare case, I suppose).
- When a character falls into a swoon, they can’t experience anything with their senses, other than a dream.
My princess goes off into a swoon a lot. I actually don’t use it as a means to hide something from reader’s eyes. Princess Anelyn’s swoons are here to add a trait to her character and also to introduce her to the other worlds. During her swoons, she sees dream-like visions. And then, after some time, she travels to another world to have her adventures there. So her swoons and visions prepare a reader for her future travel.
So whether you want to avoid describing violence in your book or omit something unnecessary, use these two little tricks to spare your book from the scenes that don’t belong there. Don’t let your characters see something you don’t want to describe, either by closing their eyes or by dropping them into a swoon.
Those are just a couple tricks I use in my own writing. They really help me and I hope they may help you. Do you have other tips on how to avoid writing the parts you don’t really want to write? Tell me in the comments below. I’m always learning.
Featured image photo source: Amy Treasure