Sometimes, as you write your novel, it can feel as though you’re just going through the motions and stating what happened. In order to have more vivid and memorable scenes, descriptive language is key. Here are some tips on how to work more descriptive language into your writing.
Learn where to put sensory details
“Imagery” and “sensory details” are phrases you will come across when searching for ways to add more descriptive language to your writing. But where and when should you use these? And what are they?
Using imagery and sensory details basically means to appeal to a reader’s five senses – sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Through adjectives and literary devices, you can use these words to put a more vivid picture in the reader’s mind. Not every detail needs to be explained – reading is all about the imagination, after all – but the reader should have occasional details to grab onto.
Consider the following sentence:
He picked up the seashell.
One can imagine the character doing this action. Maybe it doesn’t matter what the seashell looks like. If it does matter, a description like the following might better serve the story:
He picked up the small white seashell.
A few adjectives is all you need to better establish details for the reader.
Don’t be afraid of adverbs
It is a common refrain in creative writing circles to avoid adverbs at all cost. This comes from the reality that overuse of adverbs (words to describe verbs) can cause stilted and repetitive writing. Most adverbs end with -ly, but not all of them. Adverbs that don’t end in -ly are sometimes called flat adverbs.
The truth is that sometimes, adverbs are valuable and necessary. There is nothing wrong with saying a character spoke softly or stomped thunderously from time to time. Likewise, a well-placed adverb that doesn’t end in -ly can elevate a scene. Time order words (ex. first, ever, before, always) are often adverbs and are important descriptors. Many adverbs to describe location are also adverbs (ex. above, about, upstairs, up).
Use descriptive dialogue tags
A dialogue tag encloses dialogue and signals to the reader who is speaking. Typically, these are used simply as “she said” or “said Daniel.” But you also have the option to use dialogue tags to create description and movement in a scene.
Daniel stood up from his chair. “We have to go now.”
By putting this description at the beginning in a new line, the reader now knows what the character is doing as they’re speaking.