Not all description is created equal.
The Show, Don’t Tell Methodology dictates that the role of the narrative is to paint a picture of the world for the reader.
The narrator is not there to pass along backstory or move the plot forward. The job of narration is describing stuff that’s happening. Well, that’s a little white lie. The narrator can also pass along the thoughts of characters, but we’ll get to that in a later chapter. In other words, the only thing the narrator will be doing is describing the world in which the characters exist.
This is a really important point, so much so, I’ll say it again.
The only thing that should be in your narrative is description. No internal voice (well, perhaps a bit of thought), but certainly NO BACKSTORY.
Narration is for description only (and some thoughts).
It is important that you can clearly define the types of description you are using in your novel.
The four types are:
- Location description.
- Character description.
- Action description.
- Emotion description.
Location description is the description of places. Remember, you are trying to paint a picture in the mind of the reader. This means that all locations require some level of description. This can vary from the interior of a car, to a simple room, to a vast alien landscape.
Character description is simply what characters look like. Not all characters will need detailed descriptions, but you will need to give every character enough description for your reader to form a mental image.
Action description is the words you use to describe what your characters are doing. This might be dialing a number on a phone or flying a plane. The context of the action will dictate the level of description required.
Emotion description is probably the only one of the four that raises an eyebrow. In the Show, Don’t Tell Methodology we must avoid TELLING readers the way a character is feeling. This means we can’t say, “John was sad.” Instead, we must describe John being sad, hence emotion description.
This is the big one.