How To Write Great Description

How to utilise Descriptive Writing

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.

For example:

She raised the glass to her lips and sipped the wine.

Or.

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.

Plotting!

Plotting

Are you flying by the seat of your pants when writing your novel? Are you a rebel who doesn’t sit down to plot before writing your story? Instead of just writing whatever pops into your head and seeing where it leads you, have you thought about plotting first? I am not saying that you should not let your creativity take you wherever you want to go, but following some plan and structure can help take your novel to the next level. By following a rough road map for your story you ensure it follows a logical course of action, and it really does help to develop the emotional and physical aspects of your novel. It gives it more depth then just wallowing along.

I used to have an idea for a story and just sit down and write. Now I spend the time creating a rough plot, structure and developing characters. It sounds time consuming, but I find it so helpful. My writing has improved tremendously and my novels are now multi-dimensional instead of rather simplistic. Please don’t think I am accusing anyone who doesn’t plot of writing trash. If that works for you and you create great writing then fantastic! I envy you. My problem with not having a plot to guide me is I tend to get lost in my writing and waffle. If you find the same, then keep reading.

I have developed the following tips and knowledge about plotting from research, writing courses and experimenting with various methods. Like I have said many times before, writing is a very individual process and you need to find what works for you. Borrow tips and advice from the web, fellow writers and books until you develop a method that works for you.

What is Plot?

First of all, make sure you know the difference between plot and story structure. They are terms that can often be used interchangeably, however they are very different. They are both vital to the telling of your story and it is important if you want to sketch out your novel before writing it, that you know the difference between them.

Fundamentally plot is the “what” and “why” of your story, and structure is how you tell your reader about it. Structure can be changed to suit the way you would like to tell the story, whereas plot tends to be linear. Plot is a roadmap from point A to point B that helps to organize the events and information of your novel in a logical manner; essentially it is the sequence of your story. Plot is what you use to draw the reader into your story and the character’s lives; it is the mechanism for drawing the readers’ interest.

The Elements of Plot.

Traditionally a plot contains 5 elements. This part is a bit dry and clinical, but is important to understand if you would like help to develop a great plot that is logical and makes sense to your reader. The 5 elements:

  1. Exposition: or introduction. This is the beginning of your story where you establish characters and the setting. Traditionally this is also where you first introduce the conflict or main problem that is central to your novel.
  2. Rising action: This is the part of your novel where a series of events lead up to the conflict or climax. This is the main part of the story where you build upon the readers’ emotions using excitement, tension, fear and all those other emotions.
  3. Climax: The climax is the main point of the plot; it is the turning point of the story.
  4. Falling action: This is where you wind up the story. There is resolution for the main characters of your story.
  5. Denouement: The end of the novel, either happy or tragic.

5plotelements

If you find the traditional 5 plot elements hard to use, or too restrictive, then don’t worry. You can reduce your plot down to 3 simple elements and base your story around that:

  1. An initial problem (beginning).
  2. Added complication (middle).
  3. A resolution (end).

I tend to use the 3 elements as I find it less dry and restrictive. You will find worksheets for the 5 elements and the 3 elements plotting styles on the Learning Tools page. They are blank worksheets you can print out in order to help with plotting.

How Do You Design An Interesting Plot?

So, you now know the elements of plotting but how do you design a good and interesting plot? A good plot draws your reader in, maintains their interest, and creates long-lasting impressions and memories of your book. I have found that there are 3 basic ways to help create a good plot:

  1. You can use a traditional story or anecdote from real life, whether yours or someone else’s.
  2. You can start with the initial situation, or conflict, and work forward.
  3. You can pick your climax and work back from there.

So you can see from this, that plot sketching is usually event orientated.

Useful Links:

A Writer’s Cheat Sheet to Plot and Structure

Learn the Elements of a Novel: Structure and Plot.

Plot vs Structure

That concludes the first blog post in the Build Your Novel Blog Series. Tomorrow we will cover story structure, which tends to be more emotional and character orientated. This is the next step in plotting and outlining your best selling novel!