A Note About Description: From One Writer to Another



A little while back, I remember spotting a post addressing the use of description in writing- while I don’t remember exactly what it said, it was the response to this question someone had posed: when it comes to description, how do I know when there’s too much, and when there’s too little? When is it needed, and when do I cut back and “trim the fat”, so to speak?

I personally have always found description to be one of the most enticing aspects of writing. I use it generously- some would say that sometimes I go overboard, which is a valid complaint to have about somebody’s writing style. But nevertheless, that it is precisely what your use of description is: a definitive factor of your personal style. 

I love descriptive layering; I am a metaphor-whore. When I really get fired up, you have to wade throught the mires of sensory assault and the bogs of intricate over-exposition to finally get through to whatever point I’m making. And you know what? That’s okay. Bring on the description, I say. Lather it on thick and let anyone who reads what you write marinate in it.

Because description is the flavor, spice, breath, caress of your writing. You have the skeletal bones that make up your plot and facts- without those, your story would not stand upright. But what gives your writing its meat? Description. No one wants to gnaw on bare bones like an old dog. You have to feed your writers with the life you put into your story. Let them feel it, on the basest level that you as the author feel it as you write it. You put yourself in your own scenarios as they spill out from under the tip of your pen, so you’ve got to take the reader with you and show them the things that you are seeing, the visions that you are having, the dreamscapes that you are exploring. “Show, don’t tell” was the best piece of advice any English teacher ever gave you. You want your writing to be as effective as it deserves to be.

I am a little disheartened by the fact that people think that description needs to be moderated, like it’s something to be rationed and portioned per the words that you type, because too much is too much and it will tarnish your writing. No, no, and again, no! Unleash your creative floodgates and inspect every fragment of color and sound and smell that you can get your metaphorical writing hands on. Then, later, you can let the timid editor inside of you come out and remove that two-paragraph-long tangent about the chattering sparrows flitting through the shadowed branches, and how the afternoon sun shortened the bruised, slinking shadows that were draped across the grass. Or, you know- don’t.

I’ve been reading a certain book series that I read for the first time when I was much younger, and much more impressionable. I was a tabula rasa until this series began to inspire my initial drive to try my own hand at creative writing. It’s pretty much my “Harry Potter”, in that sense. And as I’ve been re-reading, I’ve also been stumbling along more and more passages of description that make me stop and read them twice, to soak up the words and the actual, living feel of them. I’m going start sharing those with you whenever I find them, with the tag #getdescriptive, because I think they can serve as some good motivation to get you all to embrace your own descriptive voices a little more, and take the leashes off your metaphors and similes so “too much description” can become a thing of the past.

This wonderful person’s RPCHA blog is here. Awesome post from an awesome RPCHA.

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