The more I read, the more I realize the critical role of description–involving all the senses–in the telling of a story. It is through sensory input that we engage in our world. So many of us today rush through life. Always in a hurry, we don’t take the time to notice the beauty of cloud formations, the scent of honey-suckle, the colors of the sunset or the caress of a summer breeze. Sucked into the vortex of Ipods, texting–even blogs–it’s easy to succumb to the inevitability of a life lived vicariously. So, offer your reader the joys he or she may be missing. Invite them to become more aware. This goes whether you write fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction or…you name it.
Here are a few more considerations to bear in mind when writing description:
Good description does not have to be flowery, purple prose kind of stuff. Avoid extensive use of hyperbole, adjectives, adverbs. Go for active verbs when you can.
Description isn’t only about what you see. Train yourself to become aware of all your senses. Keep notes about your experiences in your writing journal so that you can refer to them for inspiration.
Use description to express emotion. It’s that old “show, don’t tell” advice. Become aware of how your body responds when you’re happy, afraid–whatever. Go ahead and jot that down in your journal, too.
Don’t be afraid to describe the ugly, the scary, the difficult, the gruesome, even. This is all part of life, isn’t it?
Description doesn’t have to be lengthy, rambling. Tighten up your narrative, but make every word count. I’m sure that when reading you, like me, have been guilty of skimming lengthy paragraphs of description that have taken you out of the story line.
Suggestion: to develop your own awareness, get in the habit of journaling each day. Jot down some memories of things you’ve observed. Go beyond the visual. Cultivate awareness.