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I am trying to implement focus into my writing since I believe that is one of the many traits my writing lacks. It is not focus on the central idea, but description, action, and mood.

I have seen people recommend that action should not interrupt description or mood, mood should not interrupt description or action, and description should not interrupt mood or action. In doing so the reader can focus on one thing at a time and be ready to move on. Also, the overall story continues to move.

Here are my problems:

Firstly, I am not sure how to clearly differentiate the three.

For example, here are two paragraphs from my short story(not subsequent to each other):

**Leef can not see past what the torch illuminates. Most may think the cave is completely empty, but she knows this to be untrue. She moves quickly and deliberately through the cavern; eventually, she halts at a wall of rock, and sends a spiral of wind to demolish it. Before her, a giant eye opens from its slumber. The scaly beast is younger than most of its kind, and 8 times larger than Leef; wrapped within its tail a shiny relic occupes it. Suddenly, 200 daggers of menacing ice puncture the dragon, and then it lays limp. Leef stealthily sweeps the relic and exits the cave. This is no challenge for her. That is until she freezes in place. A figure so bright that she must squint to avoid blinding herself looms over her.


A voice in the back of her mind murmurs, selfish. This defines exactly what Leef would be if she puts herself in front of everyone else. She digs into her pocket and pulls out a glistening silver pendant embedded with a massive red ruby. This is the only memory she has of her village, and the only thing that she could salvage. A herd of fire dragons killed everyone in her village, except Leef. Her mother wore this pendant day and night; now she possesses it. She stares at herself in the reflection. Her hair is a dirty blonde, nowhere near as light as it was when she was a child. Her eyes an enchanting emerald green, her skin as pale as snow. But what would she do? She has no one; no family, no friends, no companions, no one, anymore. People fear her for her power. They see her only as a danger, a weapon. Not someone they would share smiles with. Droplets of water form in her eye. Her blood begins to simmer.**

I am unsure wether a sentence like, “Most may think the cave is completely empty, but she knows this to be untrue,” is mood, description, or something completely different. Another example is, “But what would she do? She has no one; no family, no friends, no companions, no one, anymore. “ If so, how would I apply focus to this?

Additionally, what if two (mood, description, and/or action) exist in the same sentence? For instance, in “ She digs into her pocket and pulls out a glistening silver pendant embedded with a massive red ruby,” she digs is an action, but the pendent is being described. Where would I put the sentence if I were to reorganize the paragraph? Or should I create two completely different sentences to deal with action(1) and describe(2)?

Secondly, how do I reorganize the paragraphs to make them coherent and focused? Should I make a whole paragraph based on action, the next based on description, and the next based on mood?

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  • That first paragraph basically reads like "Danger, danger, danger, danger. Relief. Oh fuck danger!" So I'd say it very definitely focuses on mood. And isn't that exactly why you wrote “Most may think the cave is completely empty, but she knows this to be untrue” ? To give a sense of danger? -- The second paragraph also seems very moody, except for the description of her reflection. Consequently, the transition to “But what would she do?” felt jarring to me. I don't see how we got from one to the other. So there the focus people recommend seems to have been lost.
    – towr
    Feb 22 at 7:46
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    First draft that needs a re-write. Step back, focus on what's important, and get rid of anything that distracts or doesn't support THAT SPECIFIC idea. What is THE action she's doing? What is the ONE ASPECT you are describing? Without focus nothing is important, and you fall back on cliché-as-filler (female protag stares into mirror and sees self as a child– LOL, whaaat?) Dead Mom is not a 'mood', it's just a woman-in-fridge. She makes 'ice daggers' then 'freezes' – you see why I assumed she turned to ice – especially since you've buried the lede about a huge monster in the room...?
    – wetcircuit
    Feb 22 at 13:38

1 Answer 1

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Don't 'Focus' on Separating

Attempting to separate out description, action, and mood is a fool's errand. They need to co-exist within the same paragraphs - even within the same sentence, as OP highlights in their own work.

In fact - each paragraph should ideally do MANY things, not just one or two.

Cut Description

I'd go further: description that does not create mood or explain action is not useful, and should be removed. As an example, OP describes the POV character in the second sample - green eyes, blonde hair, pale skin. This description tells the reader nothing useful, and could be cut.

Imagine instead if the character looked into her reflection, and the "description" was all about mood.

In the hazy depths of the silver pendent, she glimpsed the ghost of herself. The frown lines around her mouth summoned the spirit of the serious little girl whose cousins always made faces and giggled until she put aside her toys and chased them across the meadow outside the village. As the pendent turned, she saw the green of her mother's eyes gaze back at her for an instant, warm and welcoming.

Her lips thinned into a bloodless, angry line, and she resisted the urge to hurl the jewel across the room. She had no time for the past.

This section does a couple of things:

  • It sets the mood as reflective and ephemeral.
  • It gives history of the character - they had a normal childhood, full of family.
  • It drives home a sense of something lost.
  • It gives state of mind for the character - she's angry and impatient.
  • Gives a physical description of the character - she has frown lines and green eyes.

A truly excellent writer could use those ~100 words to do even more.

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