How to Write Non-Boring Descriptions


I’ll never forget my experience listening to Frankenstein on Audible.

I went to the store, got groceries, was driving home, and sweet Mary Shelley (or the narrator, at any rate) was still droning on about some mountain.

Now, Mary Shelley is far more successful than I will ever be, so perhaps I shouldn’t weigh in here, but I’m of the opinion that shorter descriptions are better.

And that leads me to today’s topic in our writing mini-series: how to write non-boring descriptions. Continuing in the tradition of getting expert advice, today, I have three gems for you from three different authors. I’ve already alluded to the first, and it is to…

Keep It Short – Erica Abbett (Moi!)

Some genres lend themselves to 20 pages of description about dirt and whatever else, but they’re not what I prefer to read or write. By all means, though, follow your muse!

The Setting as a Character – Donald Maas

I read this bit of advice before writing Ahead of Her Time, and found it quite helpful in describing Noor’s childhood home! You’ll notice that she treats it almost like a person.

She misses it; it makes her feel comfortable and safe, etc. Then, when a certain something happens, there’s a lot of personification mirrored back at her. The branches outside the windows become frenzied, tapping wildly at the glass. The sea becomes violent.

This advice really adds to the atmosphere, making the setting less one-dimensional!

An Extended Simile or Metaphor – Rick Riordan

I didn’t know of this trick before writing my first book, but I’ll definitely be utilizing it for the sequel!

Rick Riordan brilliantly suggests using a simile or metaphor to tie together descriptions. So instead of, “he looked like this, weighed that, had this color hair, his shirt was torn, and he looked angry, etc. etc…”

He suggests something like, “He looked like a rhino, ready to charge,” (and then adding it whatever details you find relevant).

I dive into this even more on episode 54 of the Vocabbett podcast. You can listen at the top of this post, or on your favorite podcast player.

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