Writing description – pitfalls to avoid

dcrodK6MiDescription can be difficult to write. In contrast to dialogue and action, description does not move the story forward. Nonetheless, it is important since it provides your reader with sensory information. The more vivid the images you create, the more immersed the reader will become with the story.

As with anything, writing good description comes from lots of practice, which includes reading many books. But there are certain pitfalls that you should be aware of and avoid as much as possible.

 

  1. Avoid using adverbs (words ending with –ly)

Look at the original examples below and their improved versions. I think you will agree that the second statement is way more powerful.

She ate the pizza hungrily  → She devoured the pizza

She closed to the door loudly → She slammed the door

She begged him earnestly → She beseeched him

Pay particular attention to your use of adverbs in dialogue. Your reader will fatigue quickly if each he/she said is followed by heartily, sadly, angrily, etc.

 

  1. Avoid using vague, inactive, or passive verbs

He ran towards the school → He raced towards the school

Edward had been lied to by Thomas → Thomas had lied to Edward

He had been imprisoned by the Greek gods → The Greek gods had imprisoned him

 

  1. Avoid using vague nouns

The house was big → The house was the size of a mansion

She drove an expensive car → She drove a Jaguar

Her hair was blond → Her hair was the color of corn

 

  1. Avoid using look/feel

When you use these words, you immediately remind the reader that this is a story and they are looking from the outside in. When you eliminate these words, the reader feels more connected to your story

She looked at the forest in front of her → There was a forest in front of her

She gazed at the restaurant across the street → There was a restaurant across the street

She felt tired → Her limbs ached and her eyelids were heavy

She felt hungry → Her stomach growled

 

  1. Avoid using too many adjectives

It was a warm, sunny day with a baby blue sky and tiny clouds floating slowly through the pleasant air → It was a warm day. The sun was out and the sky was blue

The smell wafting from her was sweet and delicious. Her curly, long, full, red hair hung across her delicate, pale, shoulder. → A flowery smell wafted from her. Her red mane hung across her porcelain shoulder.

 

To summarize, when writing your description employ strong verbs and nouns, avoid excessive use of adjectives and adverbs, as well as phrases like she saw/she felt.

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