During my research for my final paper, I came across a study titled Differential engagement of brain regions within a 'core' network during scene construction. (Found at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850391/). Though admittedly I don't understand all the technical details of the study, I thought the conclusion perhaps provided an interesting tip for creating scenes in a book. The authors of the study provided phrases and instructed subjects to form an image in their mind using the descriptive phrases. They found that "three elements [descriptive phrases] were sufficient to make a coherent and vivid scene, and once this was achieved, the addition of further elements seemed to involve only maintenance or small changes to that established scene."
I think we have all read books with blocks of description, through which we skim and don't pay much attention. I wonder if part of this is because we have visualized the scene early on and the remaining descriptive phrases are simply clutter as they no longer assist our brain in visualization. This means scene description can be fairly brief, and still be as effective as one that is carefully mapped out.
Not that I think it is entirely that simple. The study itself goes into a lot more detail than I will here, but it seems there is certainly a more effective order to introduce descriptive phrases in a scene (As an example, as the first descriptive scene is introduced without a context, a general description of the setting/background, such as a verdant forest or dark room, may provide a context to which further description can be added.
And I don't think descriptive phrases need to be limited by three, only that three is the optimal amount for visualization. Other sensory descriptions (such as smell) may still add depth to the scene without being discarded as clutter.
Let's try an example, using three descriptive phrases: 'Verdant forest', 'blossoming pink peonies', 'small thatched cottage', Even without placing these into narrative form, I have a clear visual of a scene of a quaint, well-kept cottage surrounded by flowers in the middle of a beautiful forest. Now, I might want to add some auditory and olfactory description, such as the buzzing of bees and the smell of bread wafting through the window. Now the forest has come to life, and the cottage is surely inhabited as can be told by someone baking. Minimal description for maximal effect.
Anyway this is a strategy I plan to implement in my writing. And if anyone understands neuroscience better than I do, any further insight into the results of this study would be appreciated!
Bryant Reil currently resides in Kelowna, BC. Recent accomplishments include completing a Master's degree, and having finished two books, Elf Mastery and Elf Doubt. The third book, Elf Righteous, is underway.