Tips on General Description

by , Monday September 2, 2013
Tips on General Description

How to Make it Powerful


I already touched on this when talking about characters, but this is going to be more general advice on description. I must admit, I’m not the biggest fan of description but sometimes I am blown away by how beautiful it can be.


I don’t like too much description, for me a little is more powerful than a lot. But I know not everyone shares that opinion. I think the question of how much really relies on how important whatever your describing is. I don’t think anything should be described for pages and pages because I’ll just skim over it and I’m sure many others would too.


Powerful description evokes emotions and appeals to the senses. If you can describe not only what it looks like but what it sounds and smells like as well, you’re on to a real winner. Think about the beach, it’s not just about the sights. It’s about the smell of the sea, the sound of seagulls, the feel of sand between your toes and the taste of ice cream. If the reader has more than one sense described for them they are going to be further immersed in your story and also more connected with it.


Another important thing I want to raise is clichés. Try to avoid them at all costs. It is much more powerful if you think of something different to compare something to. For example, don’t use “as quiet as a mouse” there are so many other things that are quiet that you could use. If “as quiet as a mouse” is used, the reader will read over it without really thinking about it. If you use something more original, the reader is much more likely to engage with you and take note of the quiet atmosphere you’re trying to create.


In short: don’t write pages and pages, appeal to the senses and avoid clichés.


My challenge for you is to take one clichéd piece of description - you can use "quiet as a mouse" if you wish - and turn it into something more original.  Write both the before and after in the comments below so we can see how many different ways there are of saying something.

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