I’m largely a visual person which is ironic because I’m not very good at descriptions. I struggle with the descriptive narrative of my stories. Always. Writing helps improve some of that but it’s still a struggle for me. I have to go back to a story over and over again to get just the minimum “feel” required for the reader to “see” the story.
I’ve read books that have helped me improve descriptions in my book and a few tips I’ve picked up along the way but to me, personally, the most effective is the idea board. Both Scrivener and Pinterest has helped me find the right aesthetics I’m looking for in my books. Whether the reader visualizes the same or not when they’re reading my work is another story. I won’t be surprised if readers “see” different things in my work because we all bring different perspectives in our reading. But to me, at least, getting the right look from my head to paper helps me pull a more cohesive story.
A few tips I’ve picked up include:
- “Walking” the room. Or in the words of one of my author friends who has an exceptional grasp for detail, “spin around the room”. Close your eyes and visualize the room, where you’re standing, what you see, what you feel, smell and hear.
- Use all the senses–sight, hearing, smell, taste and feel. I recently wrote my characters walking in the basement of an abandoned building. This could have gone two ways:
“They wade through the water, slowly. It’s dark and muddy. Fortunately, the water was only ankle deep, and their boots keep most of the dirt away.”
“They wade through the dark, murky water, making slow progress through the sludge. Fortunately, the swampy slop was only ankles deep, their boots keeping most of the muck away.” It’s a few more words, but the picture gets clearer of where the characters are moving and how.
- This brings me to the third point: when in doubt, use words that are the “strongest” and most evocative. Why run when you can dash, or even flee or scurry? Why eat when you can gobble or devour? Why use pink when you can use blush, salmon or rose?
I usually write as I go, and at my first edit (also at second, then the third, you get the drift), I add more details, until I’m satisfied that it evokes the imagery I hope to convey. Remember though that there can be such a thing as too much detail. Knowing when to stop is just as important as knowing what to describe and when. This comes with practice. So just keep on writing, then edit later.