Writing description can be hard. You either describe too much and your book feels like an encyclopedia or you describe too little, so you are only “telling” your readers like it would be a list of facts, and they can’t SEE anything.
How to create a good description?
How to find this balance?
5 Steps to Writing Description Without Boring Your Readers to Death
1- Understand “show” and “tell”
It took me forever to understand it. I couldn’t quite… tell what was the difference and what I was doing at each moment.
Basically, when you “tell”, you are simply stating a fact. For example: “The dog slept peacefully”.
When you’re “showing”, you’re painting an image in the reader’s head: “The small dog was laying on his fluffy bed. He snored, peacefully.”
When you show, the reader can “see” the scene. When you tell, they get to know the facts, but they can’t quite see it.
Both are important. Telling can help when the scene is too slow and you need it to advance quickly. Showing can give color to a scene.
2- People see with their senses, not only with the eyes
Remember to add the five senses to the scene: touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste. We tend to focus on sight, what the character is seeing. However, we, as humans, rely a lot on touch, how it feels. Is it warm? Gooey? Also, there are a lot of smells, everywhere. The smell of mud after it rains. The smell of popcorn in the cinema. The smells of a big polluted city. These are really powerful for your reader. It will take them right there.
3- Be specific in the details
You don’t need to write a description of ten pages. If you can put some specific, concrete details, you will be able to help your reader see the scene. It IS a wall but what is DIFFERENT in this wall than the other walls? Maybe it’s a graffiti of a hummingbird. Maybe the wall is as gray and boring as a cloudy sky.
Choose specific, memorable details, that your readers are going to remember.
For example, maybe they don’t know the name of that fantasy mountain, but they know it’s the dark one, full of ashes. They can’t remember what it’s called, the easy name of Ker’narghotz (oh, boy, fantasy names), but they do remember a memorable detail: there was lava.
They are likely to refer to that mountain as “the lava one!”
You can do it with character: give them a remarkably big nose or something that you keep repeating throughout the story. An incredible red hair. The reader might forget their names, but they will remember this detail.
4- Emotional weight
Make the description emotional. Does the place make your character remember something that happened when they were kids? Does the school make him angry for being there? Put emotions in the descriptions and you’ll have it, it won’t be boring, and the reader will remember it very well.
Always think about yourself. How do you remember things? When things are important to you, you remember it. When they are just ANOTHER tree, you won’t even pay attention to it.
5- Little by little
Let your character see the world little by little, step by step. Let the character experience things and keep putting description while it happens.
Start in the middle of an action scene. Put a bit of description here and there.
The most important part is the action. The description will help you build the scene but don’t focus on that.