Mastering Description – Part 2
Some writers are naturally brilliant at description, while others are unsure and less confident about it, and probably afraid to use it because they feel they are not that good at it. But every writer has different skill levels, and every writer approaches their writing in their own way. That’s what makes writing unique.
Description need not be feared. In simple terms, it’s simply about adding extra details to a scene.
But even if you don’t have much confidence in your ability to show rather than tell, which is what description is, it’s really all down to practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll become at enhancing your writing. It’s all down to what you’re writing, and what’s happening in that scene at that moment.
In simple terms, think about the scene you’re writing, whether it’s a tense, atmospheric scene, an action scene or a reflective or romantic scene, and then think about what’s happening with the characters in that scene, and then create your descriptions around it.
That’s why description relies on prompts. For example, two characters could be chasing each other through the streets of a city. By using the senses as prompts, you can add layers of description. You don’t need to use off sense, but pick those that might augment the scene, like this:
He rounded the corner and saw Jason trapped by a dead end = Basic description.
He rounded the corner, breathless. He saw Jason, trapped by a dead end = Added description.
He rounded the corner, breathless. The steam from a manhole obscured his view for a moment, but then he saw Jason, trapped by a dead end = Layered description.
He rounded the corner, breathless. Steam hissed from a manhole and obscured his view for a moment, but then he saw Jason, trapped by a dead end, his body rigid against the chain link fence, which rattled like iron pots. = Multi-layered description.
Each example adds extra description, so it goes from basic, flat narrative in the first example, to multi-layered description with the last example, which means the reader would be able to build a more detailed picture in their mind. It uses sounds to describe the scene, such as ‘hissed’ and ‘rattled like pots’. It uses visual markers like the steam from the manhole and the chain link fence. It also uses certain descriptive words, such as ‘breathless’, ‘trapped’ and ‘rigid’ top complete the scene.
That’s how easy it is to enhance your story with description by using the senses as prompts. What can be seen, what can be heard, what can be touched/felt, what scents can be described or what could be tasted?
If it’s easier, always ask yourself: What is it you want to express with the description? What emotions or actions are there in the scene? What colours, sounds and visual markers can you show the reader?
Careful choice of words, and the way they fit the scene, help reflect the feel of what you’re conveying to the reader. Not only that, but how you construct the description is what makes it stand out to the reader.