Description:
Creating a Vivid Image

Have you ever read a book and wondered where all the description was? Or maybe you just couldn't picture what was going on because the author didn't describe things very clearly. Or... heaven forbid... you were yawning by page five of the delineation of every flower on the wallpaper.

Well, you don't want to have those problems yourself. So you must learn to create vivid mental images with all your descriptive phrases.

But don't overdo. You need a balance between description and action - leaning more heavily toward the action - or you'll bog your readers down and they'll go find something more entertaining to do.

And that just won't do.

Enough is Enough

You can't write a good novel totally void of description. We want to know what your characters look like, what they're doing, where they are.

But we don't want pages and pages of this kind of language.

We want action.

To balance action and exposition, use bits and pieces of images throughout your novel. For example, instead of describing your hero head to toe, say this: He strolled through the door, straight platinum locks lifting in the slight breeze outside, long fingers scooping a stray lock out of his eyes.

Now we know two details about your hero; he's blond and has long fingers. You can fill us in on more detail a little at a time, either when writing directly about your character, or when another character observes something about your character.

The same goes for setting. We don't need to know every nail in the wall. Give us the pertinent details only, the ones that set the mood and forward the plot. Nothing else.

Getting Fancy Without Going Overboard

There are many ways to say the same thing.

He walked. He strutted. He ambled. He staggered.

Each of those descriptions gives us a different picture, some more vivid than others.

If you want to make a more vivid mental picture for your readers, consider cautious use of any figure of speech.

For example, you could say "He staggered like a toddler just learning to walk", using simile to depict your character's action more vividly.

Or reach a little deeper and use a metaphor. You are my sunshine is a simple metaphor. Use these with care, since too much of this would make most novels unwieldy and ridiculous. Analogy is a third way to be creative with your description. This often requires more than a single sentence to do, and should be used sparingly. An example of an analogy would be comparing the model of an atom to the solar system.

The final method of using creative language in a novel - or any writing - is one I'm fond of (and get goofy with). But this one doesn't lend itself very well to a novel, unless of course you have a character who speaks using this.

What am I talking about? Alliteration. If you've read many of the pages on this website, I'm sure you've seen it crop up. If you know any tongue twisters, I'm sure you've tried it on yourself. She sells seashells by the seashore is alliteration many of us know.

Just keep in mind, this last method of describing things is only for humor or exaggeration.

Keeping Things In Perspective

I once watched a program that talked about how differently men and women remember things. Eighteen men and women were picked up one at a time by the same limo, the same driver and driven to the same hotel.

Later on, when asked details of what they'd seen and heard, the men could describe the car, and the women could describe the conversation they had with the driver.

This is a perfect example of why you should write your description from the viewpoint character for that scene. If you start telling us the car's got a spoiler, leather interior and pin striping, you darn well better have a viewpoint character who would notice those things.

This is a great way to characterize your main players, by the way. By using what they'd notice to make us understand them better. Don't be picking out forty-three details unless that's what your viewpoint character would do (trivia nut, or something?).

Not only that, unless it's important to the plot or characterization, you shouldn't tell us any of those details. Yes, we want a vivid picture of where we are and what we're seeing, but it needs to tie into the plot and main characters, or it's just fluff. Readers don't like fluff.

So be sure you describe only those things your POV character would notice, and only the ones that add to the novel's plot, action and character.

Do It With Style

Whatever type of novel you're writing, you should be sure the way you describe things fits the tone and style of novel you're writing.

For instance, if you're writing a gritty suspense novel, you don't want to use flowery phrases like The lights glittered softly against the midnight velvet of the sky. Your readers are going to say "Huh?" and run away fast.

Instead, you need to create an image that fits the feel of the novel. The lights gouged holes in the black sky.

However you decide to use it, keep your description straight to the point in the tone your novel needs. Only then will your novel make the vivid, cohesive image you intended.

Happy de-scribing!



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