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Seven tips for descriptive writing that don’t suck

Writing good description is hard. Here’s a few good tips from around the web to help!


1. Be specific 
Read more at How to Write a Book Now

The key to writing descriptively is to throw away your generic words, and use specific words to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Ask “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” and “How?” before writing that next word.

2. Show don’t tell 
Read more at Capital Community College 

Hollow adjectives and adverbs shouldn’t be doing the heavy lifting in your writing. Don’t just tell your writer that someone is hilarious, a sunset is beautiful, or a mountain is majestic; your job as a writer is to prove it!

3.  Create a sense of place 
Read more at Miss Literati

Make your reader feel at home in a world that moves around them. Remember Hogwarts from Harry Potter? Staircases moved and pictures talked with the hustle and bustle of students, making us feel like we were sitting right next to Harry, Hermione, and Ron.

4. Focus your description
Read more at BBC

Rather than fluff your writing with a list of details, focus your description on something meaningful. You could describe her jeans, her necklace, her hair, but maybe the tattoo of a spider eating a heart on her forearm really tells us about her.

5. Use dialogue to show emotion
Read more at DailyWritingTips

An easy way to show a reader a character’s emotion is to let the character do the talking.

“GREGORY MICHAEL THOMPSON!” his mother hollered, “You just wait ‘til your father gets home, boy.”

Just from a quick quotation, we can get a sense of mood, emotion, values, character, and region.

6. Collect stories from everyone you meet
Read more at Jerz’s Literacy Weblog

The world is a wonderful place full of irrational nut cases. Keep a notebook, and try to evaluate these bizarre human beings as they appear in your daily life. Not only can this help you to write every day, it may inspire super-original characters, settings, or insights into your next project.

7. Form a pattern
Read more at GlobalPost

Whether it’s top to bottom or left to right, think about the logical pattern of describing a scene. If you’re describing a castle, make your descriptive language swim through the moat, climb over the wall, and jump into the king’s bed. Ultimately, you are trying to create a living forest without elaborating on each individual tree.
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