Describing Descriptions

Amaya Sullivan

Writing descriptions can be a struggle. Some writers and authors prefer to just write whatever comes to mind and go back and tackle the descriptions during the first wave of edits. It’s not a bad idea and not uncommon.

Photographer Unk. Title Unk. Sept. 29, 2016

Photographer Unk. Title Unk. Sept. 29, 2016

Getting your vision or idea out onto paper or into a computer is more important. Fine tuning comes during the editing process. You’ve accomplished getting your story on paper. It’s the first wave of edits that you find the most challenging.

As you tackle your manuscript line by line, you realize you’ve been using the same or near same description each time you show an action. And, MS Word only offers a slight synonyms word bank.  Now, you’re falling into telling your story instead of showing it and turn to a dictionary website for more words. It happens.


Photographer Unk. Title Unk. Sept 18, 2016.

The best way to get out of this funk is to go out and smell the roses. Seriously, get out of the house, take your mind off of your beast of a manuscript, put some decent clothes, take a notebook, and get into your car and go to a mall, park, or public place, and watch how people interact with each other.

People watch getting an actual visual works. Watching the way people answer the phone, flick their hair, or get angry at the cashier. Now, the next part is you jotting down all you observe, feel, and witness. (Don’t be creepy about it).

Describe the scene. How does the woman look that rummages her purse for her cell phone? Then take it a step further, how do other customers react or look to the angry man asking for better customer service? If you’re in a park, what facial expression does the man have on his face gazing off into the clouds?


Photographer Unk. Title Unk. Sept 18, 2016.

Don’t forget about your environmental factors. You’re not people watching, pay attention to the weather and area. For instance, how the wind graces its presence pushing the burnt color leaf across a nearby pond or the sun fulfilling its duty in chasing the moon ‘til it’s out of sight.

The only added thing you may want to consider is keeping a pocket dictionary or dictionary app on your phone to look up some synonyms. If you’re an author or writer try this exercise the next time you’re stuck.


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