- Description is not simply a decorative feature to fill pages and an author’s desire to sound like a literary giant. Tone it down. Good description provides imagery but doesn’t become flowery.
- Be careful to sort out the telling details from the lifeless ones. A barrage of unnecessary description can make salient details disappear
- Description is not meant to provide a reader with a picture that matches exactly the picture the writer has. Give readers leeway to envision the scene. Your description needs to be open-ended enough to evoke images in the reader’s mind.
- Description must have purpose or leave it out. It should move the story forward or slow down the pacing, reveal character and heighten emotions and senses.
- Ideally description should provide insight into a character’s inner life, motivation, drive.
- Description is most effective if it comes from a character’s viewpoint, is colored by that character’s perspective and is part of the action.
- Description should be subtle and blend with dialogue and character actions. “Nearly home … ” The house materialized through the cloud cover in the distance. She forced her exhausted legs forward, teeth shattering, chest aching. “I can make it.”
- Give unique salient details that enable your reader to imagine. Not: The child wore a sad expression and a dirty dress. Try: The child’s sad eyes were the first thing Susan noticed, that and the torn hem of the dirt-stained dress brought tears to Susan’s eyes
- In describing a person don’t simply describe clothing, a painful mark of immature writing. Reveal less obvious details. Not: She wore a white sweatshirt, workout pants and running shoes. Try: The white sweatshirt she wore was frayed at the neck and cuffs. Her shoes had no laces and her running pants dragged the ground as she shuffled along the path. She was overweight.
- Use lots of nouns and verbs and few adjectives and adverbs.
Good description enhances a story. Over description destroys it. Avoid over describing.