Description is evoking details to make the story come alive for the reader.
Sensory details allow you to create a vivid scene- a moment in time and place that will seem fully present to the reader.
The more you perceive the physical world around you, the more aware you are of other people in all their nuances of personality and behavior, the more authenticity and feeling you’ll be able to bring to your writing. Your characters become three dimensional, the setting will seem real.
Why? Because they're based on detailed observation of actual places, people and events.
Using the five senses helps the reader understand character, setting, place, emotion. Learn to look for details in the atomosphere. Is it warm and inviting or sterile, cold, impersonal? The color and texture of the rug, the ticking of a clock on the wall, the rustle of a curtain blowing through a half-open window, the smell of chocolate chip cookies or fresh bread baking.
The more sensory details you accumulate and store (write down in a notebook perhaps) the richer your creative bank will be when you sit down and write. Vocal inflections, speech mannerisms, gestures, body language, details of appearance and behavior all play a part in making your story come alive.
Learning how to implement this in your writing is very important because children are strongly sensory. Small children continually add to his/her awareness through the senses. The world is a new place, to be explored through eyes, ears, nose, tongue and fingers – through the whole body. This is true for older children too. They prefer to gain their knowledge of the world directly through the evidence of their sense-what they can see and feel and experience4 for themselves-rather than merely accepting what they’re told about it.
To create this magic for the reader: SHOW DON’T TELL>>
Good writing is never static, dynamic writing that shows something to the reader in detail, rather than merely telling him about it.
Example: General (telling) : A lot of snow had fallen.
Showing/Specific: In the midst of a bright, quiet dawn… great drifts of snow had swirled up into high pointed peaks. The snow seemed to be rising and falling like waves in a stormy lake. The snow squeaked when we walked on it. I filled my lungs with the cold air.
The secret of writing description that comes alive and leaps toward the reader is learning to be alert to sensory detail – and beyond that, systematically collecting and recording such details, by writing them down in a small notebook or index cards.
SPECIFIC LANGUAGE: To communicate an experience to the reader, you need t find words that will convey precise, clear images.
General/Telling: As he went out the back gate, Jamie smelled something delicious. Maybe he’d wait until tomorrow to run away.
Showing/Specific: As Jamie went out the back gate, a spicy smell drifted toward him-cinnamon, raisins, brown sugar. Was Mom making gingerbread cookies? Maybe he’d wait till tomorrow to run away.
Avoid words that categorize but don’t really describe. Awful, delightful, scary, pleasant, nasty, pretty. These words create no image in a reader’s mind.
Example: The beach was pretty.
The turquoise water lapped the edges of the white sand. Palm trees weighed heavy with rough shelled coconuts.
Some are tempted when writing description is to label your impressions to the reader, using all-purpose words and phrases. In a way, this is telling the reader what to think. If you show the detail that created the impression, you’ll produce the effect you want in the reader’s mind-and with much stronger impact.
Example of label/telling: There was a magnificent view from the top of the ridge-a vast expanse of countryside that took my breath away. The air was exhilarating, as was the spectacle of a glorious, many-hued sunset.
Showing/Specific: Down in the green bowl of the valley, lights were winking on in tiny, scattered farmhouses. Up here on the ridge, it was still daylight, though sunset clouds glowed pink and mauve and peach above the western peaks. A fresh, keen breeze stirred the hair at the nape of my neck.

> Great article on pacing by Karen Leabo/Kara Lennox.>

By Karen Leabo/Kara Lennox

Elements that... >>


    • Description >>
    • Introspection >>
    • Long scenes >>
    • Long, rambling sentences >>
    • Monotonous sentence length/structure >>
    • Flashbacks >>
    • dreams >>
    • boring dialogue ("Hi, how are you?" "Fine, how're you?") >>
    • Repetition of words, phrases, ideas (We know the heroine's brother was cruel to her as a child. Recall one incident. Don't keep throwing in more incidents of cruelty.) >>
    • Anything that moves away from the plot, or the central plot question >>
    • Long, gray paragraphs >>
    • Scenes where hero and heroine aren't together (in Romantic Fiction--Ed.) >>
    • Writing that isn't clear (so reader has to read it twice) >>

    • Action >>
    • Dialogue (in general) >>
    • Shorter scenes >>
    • Shorter sentences >>
    • Varying sentence length/structure >>
    • Being "in the moment" >>
    • Sparkling dialogue (but only if it moves the plot forward) >>
    • Fresh, interesting words, phrases, ideas >>
    • Arresting subplots that tie back into the main story >>
    • White space (short paragraphs) >>
    • Keeping hero/heroine together >>
    • Good writing that flows effortlessly, so the reader is so lost in the story she forgets she's reading a book! >>
"Oh, good writing. Why didn't you say so in the first place?"