Are you looking for sure-fire ways to ensure your readers are able to visualize the images in your stories? There are many exercises to develop any writer’s ability to notice details and create engaging descriptions. Here are three of my favorites:
1. Write what’s in front of you.
This is best done as a timed writing. Get your notebook and pen, set your timer for ten minutes, and write what’s in front of you. Record the details of whatever you see, as precisely as you can. Stick with the physical details. If you wander off in memory let that happen and come back to what’s in front of you. You can do this exercise anywhere: sitting outside, waiting for your coffee at an outdoor plaza, in your living room, or looking out the window. Keep your pen moving, don’t edit or stop to consider the perfect word, just keep going until time is up.
2. Be specific.
Not “tree” but details about the tree: “a young alder with smooth white bark”. Not “car”, but the type of car: a gun-metal grey Toyota RAV-4 SUV. Not “people” but one individual in that crowd of “people”: try writing your description of one person here. Or perhaps write what the crowd looks like.
Look to eliminate pronouns that are general; For example, “Some people like to argue.” …. Instead, provide specific details. “My friend H gets defensive when …. I notice she starts to argue with me as soon as I make the point that …. On a secondary note, if I write about the particulars, I become curious. That may also encourage me to take more risks in my writing, going beyond what I originally thought I was writing about. In this example, I became curious about my friend’s defensiveness. What might be underneath that response?
3. Anchored in the Senses.
This is critical for strong descriptive writing. Use all your five senses, and bring those alive for your reader. If you’re remembering a favorite meal, what do the menu items taste like? What are the smells coming from the kitchen? Visually, what does the food like on the plate? Are there sounds you can hear in the room? Is the plate hot to the touch?