Stretch your creative skills and master the art of descriptive writing with the book Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. Plus, learn how using descriptive writing exercises can not only improve your writing but also breathe life into your characters, setting, and plot.
What is Descriptive Writing?
Before you can write descriptively, you have to know what it is and what it means. Description is in effect, word painting, because a description tries to represent the qualities of a person, place, object, or event. But perhaps the easiest way to understand what descriptive writing is is by pointing out what it is not:
- It is neither mere embellishment nor optional. Successful fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writers all have used descriptive writing to create mental images within the minds of their readers.
- Just about how something looks. Any writer knows in order to keep a reader interested, you have to go beyond something’s physical description. Memorable description is not only visual. Try to use sensory detail in writing about characters, setting, theme, or plot.
- Just on the page. To write a good description, it’s essential to be be imaginative and observant. Be truthful in your writing. The readers will only know what you share with them. If something is terrible or stinky, describe its reality.
- Just about writing gracefully. Writers should not be afraid to use blunt prose or fragmented sentences to make an impact. Avoid cliches (here are some cliche examples to avoid). Instead, use action-based descriptions and effective figures of speech.
- Does not always mean you have to write more. Sometimes the best descriptions are using less words and are carefully worded.
- Stand alone. Most description should appear within your story. It isn’t something we drop onto a page and hope it works. It needs to flow within the text and plot.
Take a Look at Some Descriptive Writing Examples
Throughout the book’s ten chapters, McClanahan gives readers descriptive writing examples. One descriptive writing exercise taken from page 83, “… good writing is a dance between showing and telling, between scene and summary … For example, if you choose Monday as ‘scent day,’ then every Monday during the month you’ll describe in detail three things you smelled…” In another descriptive writing example, she suggests readers refer to a passage from “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe, and asks them to write an opening paragraph that evokes the atmosphere of a particular scene. Find more descriptive writing examples and tips to help transform your novel from boring to fascinating in Word Painting.
Tackle the Creative Writing Process With Ease
Wondering how to bring your characters to life or what type of details to include with a certain scene? Let Word Painting’s descriptive writing techniques guide you through the multiple steps in the writing process and engage the eye of your imagination. Explore how to use descriptive writing in storytelling to develop characters and settings, establish point of view, and move the plot along with tension within a story. Develop your senses, and increase your attention to detail with McClanahan’s suggested descriptive writing exercises. Plus, refer to the dozens of examples of descriptive writing taken from passages of well-known books as a resource to help you write better.
Be sure to read more recommendations on writing from the WD Editors.