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The Art of Description

A few well-chosen words can create a strong sense of place which adds a rich dimension to your story. It draws your reader right in, as if they were in the room with your characters.Choose one of the following places and describe it using ALL of your five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing). In fiction, you won't usually use all five, but limbering up your storytelling this way will help you show rather than tell the story:

  1. A market in the South of France
  2. A teenage bedroom
  3. A pub
  4. A hairdresser's salon
  5. The souk in Marrakesh
  6. A stately home
  7. A garden

Mood Swings

I recommend starting this exercise with a travel magazine packed with lots of interesting photos. Select an image that appeals to you. Now, write a short scene from the viewpoint of a character who has just arrived at this location and is seeing it for the first time. Describe the setting through the character's eyes, paying particular attention to the mood that this image evokes in you. Evoke this mood in your readers through the reactions of the character - look for sensory images!Now, write a second scene, with the same or a different character - and evoke just the OPPOSITE mood. If your castle seemed tranquil and romantic, set a scene in which the mood is menacing or sorrowful. If the image of that tropical beach made you feel relaxed and happy, create a scene in which, instead, it is causing your character to feel angry or anxious. Again, look for sensory details and impressions that will convince your reader and evoke that same mood through your words - regardless of what mood the picture alone might have evoked!

Establishing The Background

Think of some information your readers will need to learn to understand the story. This could be technical information or character backstory. Now write an argument between two characters in which you use conflict to share this information.

Room

Write a description of the room you are in from the point-of-view of a character in your work-in-progress. If the character is from another time or place, so much the better. What would the character notice first? What would she find odd? What would she love about the room? What would she dislike? Go beyond describing the physical space and capture her attitude about what she sees. Let her be snarky or wax poetical. Whatever captures her emotions about the space.

Describe Your Surroundings

We've all read about the grey autumn day, the crisp spring morning, the dewey summer evening. Flex your descriptive muscles by spending some time writing about your surroundings. Look for new, interesting, evocative ways to explain the world around you. For instance, instead of writing, "a breeze blew in through the open window, try, "papers fluttered in the gust that swept in through the window, throwing dust into the air like confetti."