Wield Description Like a Sword

Sword Fight
Sword Fight (Photo credit: Laurel Fan)

Description is a double-edged sword. You can slay your reader or liberate him. It all depends on how you wield your sword.

Too much description can kill reader imagination. Good books capture the readers imagination. Too much description, and you chain the reader to your vision. Yes, description grounds the reader. Yes, description sets mood. But to free reader imagination, you may need to cut some description. Leave them some room to be creatively engaged. Every reader is going to imagine characters and settings just a bit differently anyway.

Too much description can kill reader interest. Description often slows a story. Slow the pace of a story for too long and you risk boring the reader. Too little description can sever your reader’s connection to the story. One way to fix this is to cut up long passages of description and scatter them through the body of your story. You can also make your descriptions active, tie them to fast-paced scenes, andd mood.

The right description will pierce your reader. Good description is to the point. There’s so much you can do with metaphors, subtext, and symbols (just to name a few). Make your descriptions do double – or triple – duty. Design description to have an effect on the reader. This can be through the effect on the character, setting, or mood. If your description affects the reader, he won’t mind taking the time to read it.

Description is also a way to cut up long passages of dialogue or action. Too much of anything is “too much”. More description can remind your reader of where they are, introduce new information, even alter the course of the scene.

So wield dialogue like a sword. Turn it against your reader and your writing. Kill, and pierce and cut. Be brutal with your writing and carve something great.

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