How Much Description is Needed?

Writers know that adjectives and adverbs make for weak writing. How do you say The store sold the best watches without describing why these watches are so great? And what else is the store selling? Where is this store and why is it important to our main character? Okay, fasten your seat belts, there’s a lot to learn here.

The thing is, your descriptions should focus on the story and not the slight details that can give us, say, the color of the watch and the functions it has. Instead, tell us why the character wants one so badly. The watch looked exactly like the one his mom wore every day until the hurricane blew her away. Now give us a bit about how it looks. A slender band of rose gold and a square face, exactly like mother had.

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Now we are riveted, wondering if this is the watch his mother actually owned, is she still alive, how long has that watch been in the store? Or is it a pawn shop? A lot of hook for a few bits of description. Now, let’s look at two overused words that will keep you from sounding like a polished writer. And I use them way too often. I just have a very hard time with them.

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The words are just and very. I’ve found that by eliminating the word just, most sentences pull together better. And for very, the link above will give you lots and lots of alternatives. That link also provides better choices for bad, big, funny, good, happy, know, laugh, like, little, and look, plus a whole lot more. This keeps your work from sounding like everyone else’s.

091519 very options

Romance writers want to describe the main characters so that the readers will fall in love with them. Too much description can ruin the story because the readers want a bit of leeway to imagine the characters themselves. For me, any blond hero looks like Brad Pitt. Any tiny, delicate heroine looks like Scarlett Johansson. A tiny drop of information about them and I see what I want to see.

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Julian Tunru provides amazing help for novelists at the Nearly Complete Guide to Writing a Novel. But if you don’t have time to go through his free seminar, look at This Itch of Writing and learn that you don’t really need to cut all the adjectives and adverbs. Emma Darwin provides a handy list that you should keep handy while writing. This list tells you what you need to know about the use of descriptions. Have fun with your writing, learn these important details, and keep your focus the best use of language tools.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

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