On Writing: A Sense of Place

I’m going to be honest. The primary element of writing that I struggle with is descriptive writing. I’m able to picture the scene in vivid detail in my mind, but when putting it on paper… well, that’s a different story.

In my eight (ish?) years of writing, descriptive writing is definitely my kryptonite. Writing description does not come easily to me and often makes me dread the drafting and editing process.

The good news is that I’ve been working on the art of descriptive writing! With that said, I’d like to share a few tips for weaving it into your work in progress. Let’s get started!

1 . Dive right in

When writing a new scene, it’s so important to include descriptions that anchor the action. Within the first or second paragraph, you should be telling the readers where they are in the story, and be sure to let us know why your setting is unique!

For example, if your scene takes place at a park, what sets this park apart from the other parks? Does your park have a fountain with a memorial of a historical figure? Do geese visit your park frequently? Let us know!

2. Use your senses

If a scene seems boring or bland to you, try going back and checking for your use of the five senses. Personally, I like to sit down with a highlighter and highlight all of the references to non-visual senses (taste, smell, touch, sound) in order to visualize my inclusion of them.

Your readers want to know if your character’s grandma’s house smells like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or freshly cut grass. We want to familiarize ourselves with the melody of his voice and the taste of his lips.

The five senses have the power to put the reader in the character’s shoes, so use them!

3. Do your research

A writer’s best friend is travel, but that doesn’t mean that you need to spend thousands of dollars on a plane ticket to fly to another country. Research a place that is unfamiliar to you and learn as much as you can!

For sci-fi/fantasy, it may be helpful to plan your world down to the most intricate of details.

Whatever you do, try not to think of research as a chore. You’re researching with hopes of inspiring your writing, creating a sense of accuracy, and uncovering intriguing details to avoid “stock photo” descriptions.

4. Foreshadow using place

Settings are rarely neutral in a story. Your setting can give off certain vibes to your reader, such as a romantic feeling or impending danger. Description can be used to create these feelings in the present for your reader, or they can be used to foreshadow.

Use the art of description to bring surprise to your reader, such as a place that is generally safe for your character that has been compromised. Use your descriptions to give us a taste of what lies ahead!

5. Using your words

Refrain from using only boring nouns, such as table, chair, window, etc. Use adjectives to spice up your nouns, but avoid adjectives that will make your narrative seem odd.

Remember, the right nouns won’t need adjectives. They’ll feel right and won’t seem as though you’re going over-the-top.

I hope you’ll find these tips to be helpful for your WIP! Let me know in the comments below what your tips are for tackling descriptive writing 🙂

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