How to write descriptions

How to write descriptions

How to write descriptions

Description is something that gets in the way of many authors. Why? Well, because it’s so darn hard to write. And no wonder. If you’re not careful, descriptive sequences can become static, even dull. Writing action and dialogue is so much more fun. On top of that, description incorporates so many elements. It doesn’t just cover describing the setting — it also involves descriptions of the characters’ clothes and appearance, the “props” your characters use, the weather, and so forth.

If you’re not very accomplished at writing description, then sometimes you might want to avoid writing it. But then, you can wind up with stories where people wander vague hallways or buildings, and readers don’t get a sense of time or place from your story. A story without enough description is missing something. People who read a story that’s lacking in description might ask “Where does this take place? Are there buildings around them?” I must admit that often happens when people look at my early drafts.

At the same time, some writers err in the other direction, including too much description. They fall in love with their setting and can’t help tell the readers about it. And tell and tell. This can impede the flow of the narrative. Imagine readers skimming your book in the store. If they see pages and pages describing the castle grounds, or the chic hotel, they will probably put it down and pick up someone else’s book instead.

How bad is bad description? Think of bad description as being like that teacher who droned on and on and put the class to sleep. Good description is more like the teacher who got students involved by using anecdotes and making the class interactive. You don’t want the descriptive passages in your story to put your readers to sleep, do you?

Appeal to the senses

Words with strong sensory associations always increase your chances of yielding an empathic response. Why? When you appeal to our sensory faculties, you’re inviting us to imagine how something feels. Literally.

In order to maximize that empathic response, try to appeal to all the senses as often as you can. Don’t just tell us what something looks like, tell us how it sounds, how it tastes. Recent studies show words containing sensory descriptions are so powerful they even stimulate areas of the brain that aren’t used to process language. When we read a detailed account of how something smells, for example, our sensory cortex gets a signal. In other words, the brain often treats real experiences and reading about them as the same thing. If you really want to place your reader in the story, your writing should take advantage of our collective faulty wiring whenever you can.

The same applies to our relationships with the laws of physics. Words describing motion can stimulate the motor cortex, which is responsible for coordinating body movements. If you really want to simulate motion, try doing this while varying the rhythms in your sentences. Want to increase action? Put your subject directly before the verb. To slow down the motion (in other words, to add emphasis), shorten the sentence. If you want to bring things to a stop, try replacing a conjunction with a comma: The fields are barren now, deserted. Here’s another trick: if you want to temporarily “stop” time, try removing the verbs altogether.

In order to maximize that empathic response, try to appeal to all the senses as often as you can. Don’t just tell us what something looks like, tell us how it sounds, how it tastes.

Source:

https://www.writing-world.com/fiction/description.shtml
https://litreactor.com/columns/writing-powerful-descriptions

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