Readers of my book Grow Old With Me often comment about my descriptive writing style. I love to pull the reader into the scene and the story world by showing them what my characters experience.
Benjamin looked over the valley as he retrieved tools from the back of his truck.
That gets the message across. It’s also dry and boring. The following paragraphs open Chapter Two. They give readers a glimpse into Benjamin’s mind and the world he’s observing. This pulls them inside his head so they can understand and relate to him on a deeper level.
Benjamin left Mosey Inn and pulled into the gravel lot beside the church a few minutes after seven on Saturday. He climbed into the bed of his truck to unlock the toolbox. Drawn by the beauty of the valley, he paused.
Stone steps descended from the churchyard to the meadow where a mist was just lifting. Dew glistened on buttercups coloring the pastures bordering the rodeo arena. Love Valley came to life as red-streaked clouds gave way to a pale gray sky.
After fetching the necessary tools, he planned his workday as tourists and residents began their morning routines in the serene domain below.
The aroma of bacon and coffee floated up the hill from campgrounds. His stomach growled since he hadn’t taken full advantage of Sarah’s breakfast.
Campfire smoke drifted with the fog. Clouds vanished from the mountaintop. The murmur of distant voices mingled with horse whinnies. Bawling calves and bellowing bulls competed with the distant tinkle of wind chimes on Main Street.
The chill of the previous night had passed well before dawn. By mid morning, steam rose from tin roofed stables as the puddles from last night’s storm evaporated. A battered straw hat provided shade for his face, but rising temperatures sapped his energy.
We get a picture of an area in Love Valley and an idea of the emotions Benjamin experiences as he begins his workday.
Mixing descriptive passages with dialogue and action scenes paints vivid images in the reader’s mind.
One of our writing goals is to give the reader a deep emotional experience. You do that when you:
- Add the five senses to your writing.
- Give the reader details and make it personal.
- Make them feel conflict.
- Choose strong, appropriate words.
- Help them relate to the characters. (What does Benjamin notice? How does he feel about what he sees?)
There’s a delicate balance between too much description and an active, living scene. If I went on and on about what Benjamin saw and heard you’d become bored. It may take time to find the right balance, but you’ll find your writing voice and descriptive style through practice.
Write a descriptive paragraph about your story world by:
- Adding sensory references (What does the character see, hear, feel, taste, smell?)
- Giving enough detail to make the scene personal
- Including some form of conflict or tension
- Choosing strong, appropriate words
- Helping readers relate to your character as they experience his view of the world.