As with dreams, writing comes from imagination and readers can only understand when you describe. The mechanics of descriptions in narrative writing is as simple as mentioning the colour of a house or how tall a character is. It is also as hard as painting the picture of a mad man running ,eating and laughing.
Let’s assume you dreamt of a snake. Startled, you woke and screamed , alarming your family. Before grabbing an anointing oil or calling someone, they’d ask questions. Where were you and where was the snake? Did it bite you? Are you okay?
They’d ask the questions because you experienced it and therefore can be the only one who described it properly.
WHAT DETERMINES A GOOD DESCRIPTION?
Some of the factors that determine a good description are:
Word choice can make or mar descriptions. It is the reason people are often misunderstood. Choosing the right words for the right context would give clarity to your readers and one of the ways to do it is to build your vocabulary
According to Gary Provost in his book ‘’100 ways to improve your writing’’, training your brain to supply synonyms would improve your vocabulary. For instance, if you walk by a house, think of synonyms of house: Shed, hut, crib, stead. Simlar,yet their meanings are different, depending on the context.
Another way to improve your word choice is to read. Read works by other writers in your field and while you do it, highlight words you’d rather replace with more appropriate ones.
A gigantic building would most likely not have a small main living room neither would a tall girl look directly into a short boy’s eyes. Relatable stories attract readers but unrealistic descriptions repel them.
Coherence also births clarity and it involves using the right structure, tenses , punctuation and grammar In the tweet below, one would have to read at least twice to understand the writer. Although he has a point, his incoherent sentence proves otherwise. A comma would make a difference.
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE?
Writers’ strengths and weaknesses differ. While some may derive joy in describing everything in a scene, others prefer to leave it to the reader’s imagination.
- STRAIGHTFORWARD WRITERS
This kind of writers go straight to the point . Their descriptions are often measured and always come in handy later.
Relying solely on reader’s imagination, they write majorly about the present and a little about the past. An example is James Hadley chase . Many short story writers fall in this category.
- ZIGZAG WRITERS
Zigzag writers guide readers through a character’s thoughts. They focus solely on developing the background story in alignment with the present and future and so, there can be up to two flashbacks on a page.
An example is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Many African writers fall in this category too.
- GALLOP WRITERS
Finally, this kind of writers describe based on importance. Their descriptions are about history and purpose which often are the essence of the book. When they paint an imagery, it is solely to educate or explain the reason their characters are always on the move.
Many thriller writers fall in this category. James Patterson and Dan brown are examples.
How do you describe in your writing? What did you learn? Any contribution? Comment below, let’s discuss.