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Tips on Writing Description

Keep it brief. No one wants pages and pages of description anymore. It's hard to read a Dickens novel these days, as we are now much more interested in reading "what happens." We live in a hurry-up world, and you will lose readers if you slow down your narrative with too much description.

Blend description into your narrative. If it's important for readers to know that Abigail has a messy kitchen, work it in using only a few sentences.

Choose adjectives carefully and use them sparingly.

One good adjective is better than three or four; definitely avoid the "laundry list."

Avoid using adverbs as crutches.

Example: Instead of writing "He said angrily," show his angry behavior or let his angry words show the anger. (This harks back to that old advice to writers: "Show rather than tell.")

Avoid adverbs like "very" and "really." Overusing qualifiers dilutes your writing.

Use fresh similes and metaphors in your descriptions.

A simile is a literary device that compares two unlike objects using the word "like."(Ex.: "She had the shears and combs and brushes lined up like surgical instruments.")

A metaphor is used to compare two unlike things without using the word "like." (Ex.: "The skyscrapers were stalagmites against the sky.")

Bring in as many of the senses as possible.

Weave in sounds, smells, tastes, etcetera, in addition to the way a scene looks. If possible, let the reader see the lapping waves, hear the foghorn, feel the sun, smell the brewing coffee. (Yes, it's a challenge to do all this, be brief, and blend it in, but sometimes we can pull it off!)



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