It’s common knowledge that just about any character or object in fiction work, and most nonfiction as well, needs to be described. How much description is too much or too little though? On another note how can a writer make descriptions interesting without overwhelming the reader? Let’s do a run down on the basics of adding descriptive language to literature.
Connecting Description to a Dialogue Tag:
A dialogue tag, for example, would be when the narrator adds in “said the man,” or “she screamed,” after quotations. The tag is a little addition to the original quote to give the presence of verbalization. While they cannot stand on their own, they are a good tool to use when a writer wants to continue to describe a character or object, while not wanting to have to stop the story to do it. Adding descriptions to these free flowing devices is a good way to make sure the reader won’t get swamped with too much information at one time.
Don’t Average More Than a Sentence:
It’s okay to go into detail from time to time for no specific reason. Talking about the warmth, deepness, and sweetness of a saint’s voice is a perfectly normal usage of descriptive tagging, and it serves to keep the reader interested. The more descriptions are added on in succession however, the less responsive the reader is to each one. If the reader is now only vaguely paying attention to the text, reading one out of every two or three sentences, they will most often miss important information when it is presented to them and will later be confused.
Use All Five Senses:
This does not mean use all five senses to describe one object or setting, but instead to rotate from sense to sense with each new description. This keeps the reader engaged as much as possible. It also reduces the amount of repetition throughout a piece. Please however, do not blindly go in any kind of order and end up saying that the wind looked crisp and the trees sounded heavenly – the concept of moderation and common sense applies here too unfortunately.
Describe What the Reader Would be Able to See:
When describing a car, the last and most irrelevant piece of information would be how fast it accelerates. That is something to show and not tell regardless. Describe what the reader would come across first if they happened to be in the story. Knowing the size, color, and shape of the vehicle would take priority over the weight, engine chassis (unless visible), etc, even if the latter happened to be more prevalent to the story.