Categories Writing articles
Writing description versus action
I’m not quite sure whether I’ve written too much description in this scene from a novel which I’m writing; maybe I should have written more action instead.
The scene is set in the Chesapeake bay during the American civil war and I’m trying to describe the ships which are tied up to the waterfront and anchored out in the bay.
Here’s the scene which I think has too much description.
‘He strolled along the waterfront, sometimes glancing at the ships that were held captive to the shore by mooring ropes which were lashed around the sturdy iron bollards on the shore.
Sometimes he glanced at the ships which were anchored out in the bay, with their sails furled in the yardarms.’
(Yardarms are the timbers that are fixed horizontally to the masts. Sailors call them yards rather than yardarms, but I’m writing for non sailors rather than for sailors; for landlubbers who don’t like to get their feet wet)
I just wonder if I really have to describe exactly how the ships are tied up or whether it’s enough just explain that they are tied up.
I mean, does anyone really care how they are tied up? Is anyone really interested in the fact that they are tied up with a bit of rope that’s wrapped around a bit of iron?
Here are a couple of views, both conflicting.
View #1 People like to read description, so it might not be a good idea to remove too much of it.
View #2 Too much description can get in the way of the action.
Let’s see how it looks with most of the description removed.
‘He strolled along the waterfront, sometimes glancing at the ships that were tied to the shore and sometimes at the ships which were anchored out in the bay, with their sails furled in the yardarms.’
I suspect that the scene is better without all the description, because it speeds up the action.
I vote for view #2.