Monday, February 21

Writing in Three Dimensions

I'm a foodie, so I jump on any possible excuse to tie eating to writing. Here goes: reading a good book should be like eating a muffaletta sandwich. Example - would you rather eat a gas station, plastic encased excuse for a sandwich of two thin slices of gummy white bread with some sort of grey meat and a single slice of 'american' cheese....or the delectable creation pictured to the left? A single serving of red (not strawberry, not raspberry, not cherry, but simply red flavored) Jello, or a four layer devils food cake with chocolate ganache, whipped cream and chocolate sauce?

We crave depth in flavor as well as in writing. It is said that many people dream in black and white. I've noticed that some writers, especially those just starting out, write in two dimensions, instead of three. Kind of like picturing paper dolls as characters, instead of an HD movie version of the plot unspooling in your head. Dialogue and action is a great place to start, but they aren't enough for a fully fleshed out book. I've harped on world building before in this blog, but it truly comes down to that. In order for a reader to visualize your construct of a world, or a living room, or a hiking trail, you must layer information, utilizing as many senses as possible.

For example, I could say - sticking strictly to physicality - Zoe sat reading in a chair. Up the information a notch, and you've got Zoe sat in a chair, a book in her lap and holding a coffee. Can you see it yet? Sure - the two dimensional, paper doll version. But here's a better take on still getting across the same, basic information of Zoe in a chair: Zoe snuggled deeper into a velvet wingback chair. The matching footstool made it, in her opinion, far superior to any other chair in recent memory. Amazing how a little thing like a footstool could span the gulf between mere comfort and ultimate relaxation. Topping off the experience were the full fat, calories be damned cappuccino in her right hand, and a juicy, three people already dead by page two mystery in her left.

Right now I'm sitting at my desk, two minutes into my lunch hour, craving beyond all measure a juicy, flavor laden muffaletta. Gotta say that the split pea soup I brought is not going to hit the spot today. Good writing makes you crave the next paragraph, the next page, and keeps you up far too late finishing a book. Because (among a few other necessities like plot and characterization) it fully engages all of your senses, leaving you replete with delicious details.


  1. The picture made me hungry. I have a big problems with not layering in enough description. I find myself reading over what I have and imagining only what's on the page. If I can't see enough, I add some. It really helps. Great post!

  2. I'm terrible at this game, but with your help, I think I'm getting better. I will never be a frou-frou writer, but I hoping to one day be a writer who utilizes description and not have it be a chore to include.

  3. Christi, you are a bad, bad blogger...because now *I* want that sammich and some chocolate ganache cake and maybe a double fudge milkshake (not a coffee fan, sorry) to wash it all down with.

  4. Christi, wow, you made me so hungry I feel like I could eat cardboard!