It’s often difficult to describe what it is, technically, that brings a manuscript to life. In early drafts, we try to use interesting verbs and unique adverbs to describe our characters’ actions and give them personality. We make comparisons to invoke all the reader’s senses and make a setting feel real. Yet in this, it’s all too easy to fall into tired phrases and clichés that don’t stretch us as writers or make our work as compelling as it could be.
It can be tough to strike the balance between too much and not enough in terms of description. I wonder if that’s because often we don’t consider the kind of language, the category of metaphor that best applies to our projects.
My finished novel has a lot to do with food, and in later drafts, I needed to bring that out more. In order to do that, I took a pass through the full manuscript, and whenever a moment of description arose, I challenged myself to use food terms to focus the tone.
After a particularly pleasant turn of events, my protagonist is not simply happy, but she “surprised herself by feeling as buoyant and carefree as a perfectly crafted meringue.”
Again, when she meets the guy she falls for, she doesn’t feel butterflies in her stomach or a warmth radiate from her heart through to her limbs, but rather the moment “was like the first sip of a warm latte on an autumn morning, something to savor.”
In a moment of near embarrassment, her mouth is not left gaping, but, “her mouth was hanging open like Jo’s was the first time she tasted Anna’s homemade croutons.”
It’s phrases like these that have worked to make this novel more unique, more my own. The manuscript has a voice of its own, something that sets it apart—and like a steaming bowl of onion soup on a bitterly cold winter’s day, that’s something that satisfies.