How to Use Description in Your Writing

Published by Cordoma in the blog Cordoma's blog. Views: 142

Compare the two paragraphs below:

The two men discussed what two do next. Bartleby's Crew would come for them tommorrow. They had to hurry.

The campfire shivered in the cold oklahoma winter, as the two men whispered amongst themselves. The pine branches above slumped under the weight of heavy snow. Bartleby's Crew would come for them tommorrow. They had to hurry.

There is nothing technically wrong with the first paragraph. It is, however, an example of a paragraph written without much thought given to atmosphere, setting, or description. The second paragraph has only the barest of description set in. A minimum of two details are added, the shivering of the campfire in the oklahoma winter, and the slumping of the pine branches under the heavy snow.

With these two details, the scene is given much more color, much more depth, than before. In fact, we now know that the story is a wesern. We know that it is winter. We know that the men are in oklahoma. We also know that there are pine trees. (Granted, there are not actually pine trees in oklahoma. But we'll ignore that little fact for now. ;))

One does not have to add much detail to a scene to create great atmospheric effects. One or two major details will not only greatly lengthen your paragraphs, giving your story a more writerly feel, but also enhance the mood.

How to Match the Mood.

Details of the environment should never be added superflously. They should always reflect the moods of the characters, or say something about the atmosphere of the story. They can even foreshadow events to come.

For example:

"The wind howled like a pack of wolves feasting on an unborn child."

In the context, this doesn't make sense. Wolves feasting on an unborn child? That doesn't sound like a howl at all! But now watch:

"Lilia was pregnant, and yet was forced to travel the outskirts of the frozen north, in search of her husband. The sky and snow both were both merged into a single blinding white in that icy environment, and as the soft snow crunched underfoot, the wind howled like a pack of wolves feasting on an unborn child."

Brrr... The reader almost knows the woman is going to run into some wolves. Also, note that here we have only three details to set the scene: Snow crunching under foot, blinding white sky and snow, and the howling wind.

The FIVE Senses

When describing scenes: You will have much more power if you use more than just sight words.

For example:

"The waves sparkled bright blue as she dove into them."

"The waves gurgled and chopped as she dove in."

"The waves smelled of salt, and cod slapping the skin."

Which one has the most power? (Most likely the one that uses the least familiar sense, or most novel sensation. But whatev. ;))

In any case, to summarize. Description can be used in a myriad of ways, including enhancing your writing with flavor and salt. And will most definitely help improve your writing.

I hope you found this useful.
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