Descriptive Writing

One of my biggest pet peeves when reading a story is when the author stops to describe scenery or what a character is wearing.  As an author I don’t like having to stop to describe anything really, although I know it’s necessary so I keep it brief and to the point because I want to get back to writing the story.

However, there are some things the readers don’t need to know.  For instance is it really important to know what a character is wearing when going on a boat?  I think most readers will have a clear picture in mind of what people wear on a boat and unless that particular outfit has something major to do with the story it’s unnecessary.  Simply stating what kind of boat would be enough.

My idea of a long, drawn out description is someone walking in the woods.  For example:  He walked through the woods where the trees were so thick and crowded their branches were intertwined.  Birch, Maple and Pine rose high above blocking light from the path. The wind was strong causing the trees to sway while the leaves rustled loudly with their undersides upturned indicating a storm was coming. 

Instead just sayHe walked into the dense woods submerging himself in shadows.  The wind rustled the leaves indicating a storm was coming.

The second version gives a clear picture of where the character is going, what the surroundings are like and what is coming.  Something simple won’t detract from the story but will give the reader a clear sense of what’s going on.

This of course is just my opinion but as one who reads many books, I like simple and to the point.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to describe something in little detail so when I write I try to describe something the way I would if I were speaking with another person.  When we talk to others we don’t go into a ton of detail and yet we are able to clearly describe what we’re trying to convey.  Another method you can try is to relate what you want to describe to a place or festivity.  For example, I’m from New England and anyone who has ever been here knows the smell of pine and fir trees but it’s impossible to describe that scent so I would relate that to the smell of Christmas for example.  Who hasn’t smelled a pine scented candle or has seen a fir tree featured in a Christmas movie?  Not many but it’s important to be able to convey what you want so anyone reading your story can relate.  So how would you describe the scent of pine to someone living in the desert who’s never traveled?  Again let’s use the scene in the woods as an example.

Walking down the path surrounded by pine trees she instantly thought of Christmas. 

You get the point.  It’s simple and maybe you’d even be able to get a little more specific but keeping it short and to the point is key.  I’ve read many books where an author will describe a flower that only grows in a particular region.  For me if I’ve never been there I have no idea what they’re talking about, therefore, that description hold absolutely no meaning for me.  Not to say that it’s wrong but as an author wouldn’t you want all readers to be able to know and understand what you’ve taken so much time to write about?  If you’ve taken time to put this in a story then it’s in your best interest to make it’s meaningful for your readers.

Clearly I’m not a published author – yet!  I don’t proclaim to be an expert by any means but I know as a reader what I like personally and how I’ve used my particular tastes in my own writing.