How can I improve this description?

The girl turns to face me, narrow lips stretched into a half-formed smirk. She smiles, suppressing a giggle, and tucks her football under her arm. Why is she smiling at me? My arms fold and unfold themselves repeatedly. I wipe the sand off from my shoulders. But the more I squirm the more she smiles, for in those obsidian pools mischief flickers. I slow down my breaths, matching each inhale with the rise and fall of her chest. The girl walks towards me, one foot in front of the other, swaying her hips as she goes. Breathe. She bends down at my feet. I watch as a mass of curls falls over her face, revealing a line of hair running down the nape of her neck. Her skin is still wet. When she stands back up and flips her head up, a single strand separates from the rest. It floats in mid-air, dancing like a siren in the setting sun. She holds a necklace out in front of her, arms fully extended, and tosses it from one hand to the next, as though to measure its weight. “Cute,” she says. Taking my hand in hers, she places the necklace in my palm. Slowly, letting the chain pool in my hand first, like squeezing whipped cream onto a cupcake, gentle, circular motions. It’s still warm. Turning on her heel, she walks away. I watch as she leaves the beach and disappears behind a fruit stall. 

5 Answers

Relevance
  • 2 months ago
    Favourite answer

    I will not only revise this passage I will tell you how and why I did it. 

    Let’s start with the entire revision first:

    ######

    The girl turns, narrow lips stretching into a half-smirk, and tucks her football between her elbow and hip. 

    I fold my arms. Unfold them. Brush sand off my shoulders. 

    The more I squirm the more her smile widens. She stalks forward, hips swaying.

    Breathe.

    She bends, a hive of curls sweeping my shins and flopping over her face, exposing the glistening nape of her neck. When she rights herself and flips her hair back, a single strand separates from the rest. For a moment it floats in the short space between us, aglow in the setting sun. 

    Didn’t I remind myself to breathe?

    She releases her football and catches it on top of her foot, then tosses something metallic from one hand to the next, as though to measure its weight.

    “Cute,” she says.

    She pulls my palm towards her and pools a silver chain onto it, slowly, tantalisingly, like squeezing whipped cream onto a cupcake.

    Then with an effortless flick the ball soars into her waiting hands. She winks, turns on her heel, and departs from the beach with her sultry gait, disappearing behind a fruit stall, leaving me with the chain in my palm and the residual heat of her skin on mine.

    ######

    Avoid repetition and describing simple things with too many words. Your prose is weakened mostly by being excessive more than anything else. Examples:

    “The girl turns to face me, narrow lips stretched into a half-formed smirk. She smiles, suppressing a giggle, and tucks her football under her arm.”

    No need to say “to face me”. If the girl turns and the protag goes on to describe her face, we can infer she turned to face the protag. Also, you describe a half formed smirk and then go on to say she smiles, so what’s the point of going from one to the other? You haven’t said anything particularly characteristic about the smile, so just get to the point. And “suppressing a giggle” is vague imagery. What does that even look like? If you can think of what that looks like then that’s what you should be describing. 

    “Why is she smiling at me?”

    This internal monologue ruins the flow of the girl’s description, and anyway, you portray the protag ‘s awkwardness extensively afterwards, to the point where it’s obvious they are wondering this question. In storytelling, try not to guide your readers into asking the questions you want them to ask. Readers like to play detective, they want to discover the intrigue within your story for themselves, and when it’s spoon fed to them it ruins the experience of reading.

    “My arms fold and unfold themselves repeatedly.”

    You’ve made the arms sound sentient, as if they’re doing this of their own accord. 

    “I wipe the sand off from my shoulders.”

    Wipe is a weak verb, and the word “off” is excessive. You want strong verbs. 

    “But the more I squirm the more she smiles, for in those obsidian pools mischief flickers.”

    I have no idea what that last part means.

    “I slow down my breaths, matching each inhale with the rise and fall of her chest.”

    Nobody does this. This is really quite ridiculous. 

    “The girl walks towards me, one foot in front of the other”

    There’s no other way of walking? This sounds very mechanical. Also walk is a weak verb. It has no character at all.

    “I watch as a mass of curls falls over her face, revealing a line of hair running down the nape of her neck”

    The phrase “I watch” is called filtering and is a huge red flag which pegs you as an amateur. If your protagonist is describing something then they can see it. (Research filtering for more info)

    “Her skin is still wet. When she stands back up and flips her head up,”

    More mechanical movements here. When she stands and flips her head. No need to say up.

    “a single strand separates from the rest. It floats in mid-air, dancing like a siren in the setting sun.”

    A siren? The mythological creature? That doesn’t fit here at all. You were almost on to something with this imagery though, keep trying. 

    “She holds a necklace out in front of her, arms fully extended, and tosses it from one hand to the next, as though to measure its weight.”

    More mechanical language. And what happened to the football?

    “Cute,” she says. Taking my hand in hers, she places the necklace in my palm. Slowly, letting the chain pool in my hand first, like squeezing whipped cream onto a cupcake, gentle, circular motions. It’s still warm.”

    Not bad here. I don’t think you two sentences and a simile to describe the pooling motion though. 

    “Turning on her heel, she walks away. I watch as she leaves the beach and disappears behind a fruit stall.”

    Wow, she didn’t wink first? You totally made her seem like an anime thot, to be honest. It came across as cringey and not seductive, like what I think you were going for. Oh and we have another “I watch” filter. 

    ######

    There. Professional advice and a free revision. Mention me first in the acknowledgments page.

    Peace. 

    Edit - @Tina. I explained why. “Walk” has no character to it. It’s one of the most boring actions a character can do. And there’s something predatory about the way the OP described the girl so stalk fit better imo.

  • Cogito
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    It's FAR too descriptive.  We really don't need to know all that.  It sounds very 'teenage' and immature.  

  • 2 months ago

    Sorry, but you lost me at "smirk". It's an all-too-common indicator of a particular style that frankly says nothing to me but "Beware! 'Aspiring' writer on the horizon!"

  • Tina
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    A smirk is a nasty expression - did you intend the girl to look unpleasant from the start?

    Basically the girl grins (or possibly smirks) at the narrator, walks towards him/her, drops a necklace into her/his hand and walks away. There are great many words for something not - as far as the reader can see - especially interesting. The narrator's reaction to the necklace is strange - it it a gift? does the girl want him/her to buy it? had he/she dropped it and is she returning it? If I were the narrator I would want to know. I might even ask.

    I assume the obsidian pools are her eyes. If so, just say 'her eyes'. As for the siren dancing in the setting sun...no - just no.

    Anon - why are 'wipe' and 'walk' weak words? I like 'walk' a lot better than 'stalk'.

  • What do you think of the answers? You can sign in to give your opinion on the answer.
  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Stop writing in the present. We aren't there, or in your head, obviously. It's jarring and uncomfortable to read.  Write in the simple past.

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.