Using Descriptions In Your Writing

Descriptions, when used correctly, are integral to a story, but at other times they can be unnecessary.

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Descriptions are an integral part of your writing. If you don’t include enough then you can fail to draw your reader into the story. If you include too much, however, the same thing can occur. Readers will gloss over what you’ve written and it will draw them away from the story. There are some generalities you can use to know if you should be describing something and how much you should do it.

If something is an important part of the story, something that you will come back to at a later date, you should add a good amount of description for it. That’s not to say that you dump all of the information onto the reader the first time that the thing is introduced; it can be done over the course of several scenes, but it should be quite heavily described overall.

It’s also worth noting that, in certain genres, descriptions are that much more important. Things like science-fiction or fantasy, where you have invented something yourself; your reader literally has no idea what that thing looks or feels like—or, at times, even what it is—whereas with more-grounded-in-reality genres you have a pretty good chance that most things you include the reader will know of. If, however, something isn’t important to the story and you’re probably never going to mention it again, it needs little-to-no description.

He sat in the worn chair in the doctor’s waiting room. It had seen many years of abuse; holes and tears were scattered across the material, stains from countless drinks and other spillages. The frame was collapsing under the strain of years of use and it now seemed to only serve the purpose of being an eyesore, not as a comfort providing device.

This description of a chair is both appropriate and inappropriate to use. If your characters are rarely going to go back to the chair, or if you’re just describing it because it’s there, then leave it all out. Just say it’s a chair. If, however, you’re trying to allude to the fact that the doctor is a bad one or they’re in financial difficulties at the practice then using the chair to explain that can be a very powerful tool.

When to include descriptions is all about context, intent and relevancy. If the description has a role to play, if it fits with your intentions and it’s pertinent to your story, then include it. If it isn’t then don’t. If it has no impact on your story then it will likely have no impact on your reader.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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