How to Write Great Descriptions

Great descriptions in writing can really draw readers into the story and make them see the world and characters. However, bad descriptions or excess descriptions can bore readers and make them shut the book before finishing it. If you want to keep your readers reading, then here are a few tips on writing vivid descriptions that help readers feel like they live in the story.


Avoid Too Much

I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but sometimes I want to resurrect J.R.R. Tolkien from the dead and ask him if it was really necessary to know about the location and nature of every other rock, tree, and trail in Middle Earth. Try to avoid excess description. A good way to do this is by asking yourself if you really need to describe something in detail. Is it really important to the story? Remember that the readers can fill in a lot of holes themselves.

Metaphor, Personification, and Everything Else You Learned in Your High School English Class

Using metaphors, personification, and other writing techniques can not only make description more interesting to read, but it can really help to pull your readers into the story. Here is an excellent example of personification from the beginning of Chapter 3 in William Ritter’s book Ghostly Echoes:

The afternoon air was thick and hot as Jackaby and I left Augur Lane and made our way into the center of town. I had been introduced to a snow-swept New Fiddleham earlier that year, a New Fiddleham where baroque buildings glistened with frost and chilly winds whispered through alleyways. With the summer sun now beating down on cobblestones, the city did not whisper so much as it panted heavily, its breath humid and cloying.

Be Specific

Don’t be vague about the object, place, or person you describe. Providing specific details can help the reader create specific, vivid images in their head. Instead of flowers, say tulips. Instead of red, say maroon. You should also try using other sense besides sight in order to create a more evocative description.

Avoid Infodumps

What’s a sure way to lose a reader? Writing five pages of description in a row. Unless you’re describing something really cool, like a dragon, readers will probably get bored. Don’t infodump a lot of description at once; try to spread it out between dialogue and action.

Think Through Your Characters

Different people see things in different ways, and utilizing these differences can make for unique descriptions. How does your main character see the world around him or her? How does a clockmaker’s description of the rapid beating of his heart compare to a surfer’s description?  What does a jock think about a math teacher in comparison to the chess nerd’s thoughts? The possibilities are endless.

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