In my previous post, the very last sentence might have caught your attention and puzzled you, ‘movement description—not static.’ What did I mean by this? Let me show you a scene written two different ways. The movement should be clear:
Rex pushed open the door to his hotel room. His eyes went straight to the open blinds at the opposite end of the room, and he frowned. The roof of the parking garage was a good place for a sniper to set up and wait for a shot. Rex marched to the window and yanked the blinds closed then turned back to the room. Approaching the bed, he skimmed his finger across the Bible on the nightstand leaving a trail in the thin layer of dust that had settled on the book in his absence.
He sat on the edge of the bed with shoulders hunched, exhausted. He looked at the Bible then looked up at the closed window before shifting his gaze to the right at the flat TV screen and the fridge underneath it. His eyes settled on the remote on top of the fridge, but he shook his head and laid down on the bed. He didn’t care to get up and turn on the news. The car chase he barely escaped was bound to be on every channel, and Rex didn’t care to relive how close the CIA had almost caught him. He only had enough time to close his eyes, catch a nap, and then head out again―hopefully leaving town for good.
Rex stepped into the hotel room. Dust covered everything. Against the wall on the left-hand side of the room was an untouched bed, and beside it was a small nightstand with a Bible on it and a lamp. On the right-hand side of the room stood a small fridge beneath the flat screen TV hanging on the wall. Rex stepped in and closed the door behind him.
Can you tell the difference? The second one is flat, very boring though informative. It’s like an invisible reporter is with Rex and reporting everything.
The first example has movement. Using Rex’s eyes, we realize the window is open (and what’s outside the window). This detail wasn’t mentioned in the second example. Through his action of running his hand over the Bible, we realize there is a Bible on a nightstand in the room. Not only that, but we also see that it’s dusty. When he lies down, he sees the TV screen and then the remote on top of the fridge (again another detail that wasn’t included in the second example).
By the end of the first example, we see the room—not perfectly because we don’t know what color the walls are or the color of the comforter on the bed or how many pillows there are or anything like that. But we see the room—the important details.
Not only that, but we also get a glimpse into Rex’s habits (not having the blinds open) and a sense of exhaustion and urgency from being chased. We can relate to him and therefore start to care about him. When the reader cares about the character, he will invest time to finish the book to see how the story ends.
In the second example, we have static description. Like I said, it’s like we have a reporter describing the scene—the bare facts. It’s shallow, hollow, dry, and very, very boring. It offers no depth into the character and no insight into the conflict of the story. For all I know, according to the second example, Rex could be a jock from high school on spring break enjoying a vacation in Mexico.
“What if the character doesn’t move when entering the scene? Then what?” Unless the character is blind, he will still notice details with his eyes. What he notices depends on what kind of person he is–such as the ex-Marine, hacker, or thief. If the character is blind, she will still notice details of the room but different than the visual cues the sighted see. Only an individual completely familiar with the room would walk into it without noticing anything. Have you ever walked into your own bedroom and not notice little details such pictures hanging on the wall of your buddies back in high school or how dusty your bookshelf is getting and that you should dust it soon?
Part of being a writer is being observant. If you don’t notice details around you, then start seeing them, and it will be easier to work them into your writing in a fluid manner.