One of the things I have been exploring lately is ramping up my descriptions. Especially when setting a scene.
While I am far from an expert in this regard, I would like to share what I have learned so far about this vital writing skill.
You do not need to cover all the details
I am sure most of us have one piece that is a massive info dump of purple prose and description. The kind of thing that goes way beyond anything a reader would be willing to slog through.
I have learned that picking a few key points of interest is enough to imply all the parts that are left out.
If I write about the thick carpet and elaborate four-poster bed hung with lace and silk, I can get away without talking about the rest of the bedroom because those two things serve to give a strong sense of the bedroom.
A few lines can bring a lot of life
Just a few lines of targetted and deliberate painting with words can breathe so much life into a story. I have writing which could easily take place in a white blank space. By taking the time to put some visual elements into my writing I can transform a bland setting into an iconic and interesting space.
I have often worried that stopping to smell the roses would slow down a story too much. What I have learned is just a few highlights can make a setting vivid. It does not take much. Just enough to ground the story in the environment.
What you describe speaks volumes
I have discovered that what you chose to describe can set very different tones for a story. Just picking out one or two things that typify the theme, mood, and purpose of a setting is often enough to radically change how a reader feels about the story.
Likewise, what you chose to gloss over or leave out can change the mood too. How different might a setting feel if I focus on the soft furnishings and bright sunlight or highlight the dust and age of the surroundings? One setting – two very different moods.
Characters should interact with the environment
Description, I have learned, does not need to stand separate from the action. The setting can become real just from the way the characters interact with it. These interactions can, with a well-chosen word, also describe the setting.
Settings, it seems, do not need to be mere backdrops. They can become a character in their own right.
What I fail to say, readers cannot imagine
Writing is a magic spell. We can use it to take an image created in our minds and – by the power of words – put the picture into the minds of others. Unless we fail to let them see the picture.
Readers can only imagine the setting based on the clues we, as writers, give them.
Over to you
How do you get on with description in writing? Are there any tricks or tips you can pass on? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.