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Four Tips for Improving Your Story's Descriptive Language

A writer's ability to describe his or her story's surroundings, to make their settings and characters spring alive in the mind of the reader, is critical to the success of any piece of fiction. Here are four tips from Monica Wood, author of Description to help you squeeze the right amount of flavor from your language.
  1. Expand your field of vision.
    Don't be so focused on the sky that you miss the ground. A person's kneecaps might be as defining as his nose. Look up, down, all around for the details that best capture the thing you are describing.
  2. Circle your adverbs.
    Watch for unnecessary, irrelevant or extraneous adverbs (especially the ones that end in "ly"). Examine your adverbs to make sure you aren't forcing them to do the hard work of observation for you. Instead of telling us that the heroine works "tirelessly," tells us about the callouses on her hands or her heavy walk.
  3. Use adjectives in surprising ways. Try to write description that contains verbal surprises. Seemingly unrelated verbal combinations—"frightful goodness," "ferocious necklace," "barnlike body"—can strike exactly the descriptive note you want.
  4. Don't use unusual adjectives twice.
    Common adjectives like "small," "brown," or "wet" can be repeated in a story without drawing attention to themselves. Less common adjectives, like "lissome" or "sinister," should only be used once per story.
What Is a Cli-FI Novel in Writing and What Are Some Examples?

What Is a Cli-Fi Novel and What Are Some Examples?

The literary landscape is as changing as our physical landscape—and one genre gaining momentum is looking to start conversations around that change. Author Marjorie B. Kellogg defines what climate fiction is, and offers some examples that suggests the cli-fi novel has been around for decades.


Writer's Digest 90th Annual Competition Winning Non-Rhyming Poem: "Anticipatory Grief"

Congratulations to Melissa Joplin Higley, Grand Prize winner of the 90th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Here's her winning non-rhyming poem, "Anticipatory Grief."

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 587

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an On Blank poem.

What to Say When Someone Wants to Kill You | Power of Words

What to Say When Someone Wants to Kill You

Author Gregory Galloway shares an intimate moment in his life that taught him the power of words and reveals why he became a writer.

Writing About Real People in Historical Fiction: What Is Factual and What Is Imagined

Writing About Real People in Historical Fiction: What Is Factual and What Is Imagined

When writing about real people in a real time, how do you distinguish between what is true and what is imaginary? Patti Callahan discuss how to write about real people in historical fiction.

the fisherman

The Fisherman

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about a fisherman.

Jenny Bayliss: On the Power of Second Chances

Jenny Bayliss: On the Power of Second Chances

Author Jenny Bayliss discusses the process of writing her new romance novel, A Season for Second Chances.

A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays

A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays

Here are a few tips for writing personal essays from the Publishing Insights column of the March/April 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between dispel and expel with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.