Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Description - doing it well

This month, I wanted to dive into another writing element: description. I chose this because it's something that comes to me naturally, but I know others struggle with it (just like how others are great at emotion and I have to work really hard at it).

Obviously, the intent behind descriptive writing is to describe a person, setting, or object that can materialize into an image in the reader's mind. Like this:

Or this:

Yes, you can tell I want to lounge on the couch now, can't you?

Anyway...when it comes to describing things, everyone knows that you want to evoke sensory details:
sights, smells, sounds, textures, and taste. You want the reader to experience the scene in as vivid a way as possible.

However, there are other ways you can develop your description. Firstly, it's important to describe unique details. Mostly, people describe the generality of things (blue eyes, cloudy sky, creaking doors). What you want to do is differ yourself from the pack. Instead of noticing the blue eyes of your character, what else can they notice (the earring glinting in their ear, the honey blonde strands rooted with dark). The same applies to objects: the way the sofa sags with overuse, the frayed corner of the pillows, the stain on the arm. The more specific you make your descriptions, the more to life they'll become.

Secondly. you want to use unique word choice. Did the sky sparkle like diamonds (generic) or like white sapphire (specific), was the couch just old or was it decrepit? Is the house just huge, or is it sprawling? Correct, accurate word choice can make all the difference in your descriptions.

And finally, use emotional filters. Depending on your character (and their emotional state, background, and experiences), each scene will look different from their perspective. A person who loves books might see a library and describe it as majestic. Someone who failed constantly at school might see it as intimidating. A perfectionist might describe the sofa as off-putting or unattractive...a bargain hunter might say it's rustic and antique.

So, there you have it. If you look out for sensory, unique details, accurate word choices, and emotional filters through which things are seen, you should have a pretty solid description on your hands.I'd love to know - what helps bring your descriptions to life?

1 comment:

  1. Using emotional filters is something that works really well and at times can be hard to accomplish.

    It's tempting for the author to use THEIR OWN value judgments about the description. (When really, their own perceptions should be neutral or absent entirely.)

    Descriptions should be shaded by the characters that perceive them, like all perceptions in truth are by all of us that observe the world around us.

    I would add that when it comes to description, more often than not, less is more!

    Good post!