Description is one of the strongest tools in your writing arsenal. The purpose of descriptive writing is to show your reader who, where or what you are writing about. If you are skilled enough the reader will form a picture in their mind based on your words and with a small amount of imagination to fill in any gaps. The best way to capture your readers’ imagination and pull them into your story is to utilize all five senses in descriptive detail. You need powerful verbs and adjectives, which we will discuss at a later time. All together these skills generate a sense of realism and authenticity in your writing that will leave your reader asking for more.
She raised the glass to her lips and sipped the wine.
She raised the crystal wineglass to her lips and tasted the velvety red wine.
As you can see the second example uses sight and taste to show the reader not only what the woman is drinking, but what she is tasting. Your jobs as a writer is to make your reader want that wine; describe it in such perfect detail that they can see, smell and taste it. This is the key to great description.
When talking about person and place, describing the sight, taste, feel and smell of the surroundings is the most effective way to engage your reader. However, when you wish to convey strong emotions the best way is to not mention that emotion at all. It may sound silly, but the best way to engage your reader and to help them feel what your characters are feeling is to show them.
If you simply write “he is sad,” you are telling your reader what your character is feeling. It feels flat and uninspired.
However, what if you wrote:
He sat on the couch, his bowed head resting in his hands, aching for one last hug.
Your reader will feel your characters heart ache, they will feel his sadness and hopefully be able to relate to him. This creates connection and rapport with your character and story. It is an invaluable skill to have as a writer and one that will be sure to garner the attention and interest of your readers.
Artists use different mediums to show their feelings and paint a story, we as writers do this with our words. Our goal is to involve our reader, to make them see, feel and taste what we do when we write. Our words and descriptions is what makes our stories memorable, gives depth to our characters, and keeps our readers interested and invested in the story. The Lit Candle Exercise I have discussed previously is a great way to tap into these descriptive writing skills, however there are many more out there. I would love to hear your techniques or tips for developing great description and how you use them for your writing projects.