Descriptive Dummy

by Lyne
(USA)

Question: I have a plot, all my characters and the world they live in but when it comes to describing my characters and my world, I find it either is a very short, sometimes generic description or it turns into a cliche. Can anyone give me some advice about this problem?


Answer: Essentially, what makes description come alive is specificity. It is the specific details that create a feeling of authenticity and make your characters, their perspective, and their world unique.

Take a look at how you are describing things. Look for any words that seem general or vague. Try to replace them with more specific terms.

Look for words that summarize or represent conclusions about the thing being described. Then try to replace these words with evidence that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.

For example, rather than simply say a character is "fat," which is a conclusion, give the evidence that would support that conclusion. Perhaps you describe the pallid flesh spilling out over the top of their pants and covering their groin, the bulbous neck, the thighs textured like cold oatmeal, etc.

Rather than say a house was "spooky," tell us about the decaying gingerbread under the eaves, the peeling paint, the smell of dust and dry rot, the steep and creaking stairs, the textured shadows created by the light spilling through the slits in the boarded up windows etc.

Rather than say a neighbourhood was "upper-class," tell us about the neatly trimmed lawns tended by teams of gardeners, the gleaming sports cars and tank-sized SUVs in each driveway, and the granite trimmed swimming pools. Describe the architecture in detail, so that the readers can conclude for themselves what type of people must live in such houses.

It also helps to do a little research. Look for pictures and descriptions of places that you want to use as models for your settings, or of people who resemble your characters. Use these as sources of unique details.

Even better, visit such places yourself or observe people. Avoid making snap judgments or conclusions and pay attention to the evidence your senses bring you. This will help you find unique details you can incorporate into your descriptions rather than using cliches (which are short-cuts that avoid in-depth observation).

Remember too that description not only tells us about places and characters but about the attitude of the narrator. If you are writing from a particular character's perspective, he or she will notice things another character would not. He will judge or interpret things differently.

For example, to one person a theme park will be magical and exciting, to another it will be kitschy and boring, to another it may seem manipulative or even sinister. So your description should illustrate the character's unique response to what he perceives.

This article may also help you...

http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/descriptive-writing.html

Comments for Descriptive Dummy

Click here to add your own comments

Jun 16, 2014
Good advice well received
by: Lyne

Thank you for the advice. I never thought about it that way and I look forward to trying again. And trying harder.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero