Elements of description writing

My last meetup gathering covered the topic of description writing. Here is what we’ve found;

· Don’t add too much description at any one time. These are known as ‘information dumps’ and slows down the story. Readers tend to skip boring parts, so make the description fascinating and provoking.

· People are so much more than hair and eye color. They are size, temperament, ears, mouth, and so much more. Most people you notice something besides eyes and hair. You might find another trait such as the nose, mouth, or even things like brows or fingernails.

· Give only the essential information. Rather than give vivid details, bear in mind most readers are able to fill in the blanks.

· Descriptions should be parts of the story, not an interruption. You can add descriptions through dialogue, or action. This technique can be tricky but basically you add small descriptions amid the dialog of characters.

· Describe what a character would notice, that would stand out.  Some people can be quite oblivious to their surroundings, while others may notice things that interests them. Artists may notice paintings or sculpture, while a fireman may take note of a buildings layout, while a Sherlock Holmes type might notice the smallest scratch or stain.

· Description from a POV character can also show more about the character’s state of mind, or reveal more about them as people. In times of stress, some people describe time slows, while fear or anger provokes behavior that you don’t even think about it.

· Avoid labels such as beautiful or ugly. That’s telling. Use ‘show’ methods to describe why its beautiful or ugly.

· Describing places and settings as characters. Use metaphor, simile, and descriptions similar to how you describe people.  A town can be just as quaint, or a city a bloated jerk than any character.

Write from the point of view– This should change the entire tone and method of describing something by using points of view of various people (or creatures) such as age or even gender. Also take note that not everyone notices every single detail. Readers will fill in the blanks. Give enough to outlines the scene, character, etc. which is essential.

Write with the senses– An element to writing I found is by adding the subtle descriptions of taste, sound, smell, touch, etc, you engage the reader into your world. (pass a picture where members need to add elements of descriptions based on the five senses)

Write with a mood– Our opinion on things shifts based on our mood. Consider your character’s mood and write from that angle. Someone who is angry, disgusted, or frightened will notice different things from someone who is calm, happy, and pleased. (discuss and/or write ideas of describing people and places from mood)

Use comparisons. Instead of making statements of appearance, let characters form an opinion through comparison. Instead of saying he was tall, have another character feel short compared to him.

Description through action and dialogue– We reveal as much as ourselves through our deeds and way of talking as much as anything else. (List several habits and describe the type of person who might have them)

Writing Prompt:

Take yourself as an example, and write qualities you have that other people don’t have. How do you compare? What mannerisms do you use? Do you have an accent? Write about yourself as a character and see what you can come up with.

2 Replies to “Elements of description writing”

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