A few days ago I was at a loss as to what my next blog post should be, so I posed the question to Twitter’s writing community. Sarah Addison-Fox was good enough to lob a suggestion my way, (the title of this blog post, in fact), and so I went with it. (My Emergency Backup Plan was writing prompts, but I honestly wasn’t feeling very inspired in that direction, either.)
So here we are. How to Write Killer Descriptions from a person that’s still very much learning the writing process, just like every other writer out there. As Ernest Hemingway once said: “We’re all apprentices in a craft in which no one ever becomes a master.” With that in mind, here’s how this apprentice approaches writing descriptions of things.
1.) I use my imagination. This may seem obvious, but the best weapon in a writer’s arsenal is really their imagination. Live the scene you’re writing, and it’ll be easier to describe it.
2.) Don’t be afraid of using –ly adverbs, adjectives, and so-called boring words like “really,” and “very.” [police sirens in the distance] Wait—before you lock me up, hear me out. I was taught to write this way, and I think the world goes too far whenever they say “delete every ______.” There are definitely some words that should be used with caution, and some words that should be used hardly ever, but I think that avoiding any part of the English language like the plague does not do anyone’s writing any favors. This is creative writing I’m talking about here, folks. It’s okay to be creative. (And if you go back a hundred years or so, you’ll find that what publishers considered “good writing” has a lot of these forbidden words in it. It’s changed, just like every other part of society. Someone once told me that writing for a fad will make you late for the fad, and it’s true.) I’m not saying ignore every writing rule in existence, I’m just saying take them with a grain of salt, and write with the voice God gave you.
3.) Lastly, I’d like to close with this quote by Gary Provost: “This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”
This is something I’m still learning myself, quite honestly. Prose needs variety to make it interesting, and I think the reader will be much more willing to sit through a paragraph of description if the words have rhythm.
Aaand there you have it. Naturally, we all have a different style—some might tend towards a lot of description, some only a little—and that’s fine. These are the tips that work for me. What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people closer to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!