Using Description in Creative Writing

You have likely heard the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  But if you are a writer, or if there is no picture, how do you take those thousand words, (or hopefully much less) and create a picture with words?

Good writers and story tellers do just that.  By stimulating all of our senses, sight, sound, taste, touch and even the emotional, they create a scene so vividly that we too might be physically viewing the scene.

Edgar Allan Poe, in his description of the House of Usher, wrote “-but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit.  I say insufferable, for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually received even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.  I looked upon the scene before me – upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain, upon the bleak walls, upon the vacant eye-like windows, upon a few rank sedges, and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees – upon an utter depression of soul…”

Poe wants us to feel the gloom, the desolation and dread that pervade him when he views the house from afar.  Look at his use of the word few or words that are synonymous with few – mere, simple, bleak and vacant.  The reader is left with a picture of a building that is lifeless and has not been attended to in years.  This is exactly what Poe wants you to see.

In this small passage that I have quoted the reader’s senses of sight, smell and emotions have been stimulated.  He doesn’t make use of sound, perhaps because the very absence of sound stimulates our imagination that this is a house of gloom.

If you want to write, or need to write, I challenge you to write descriptively.  Touch as many of the reader’s senses as possible so the reader can see it as vividly as you can.  Don’t use a sense if doesn’t fit into the picture (as in the case of Poe who deliberately didn’t use sound word.  The English language boasts a rich vocabulary, so make good use of a thesaurus to learn and use words that give a more dramatic description.  For example, if you are describing water, instead of writing blue water, write turquoise-jeweled water.  Also make good use of metaphors and similes.  Poe wrote “the vacant eye-like windows”.  Figurative language is an excellent way of adding life and sight to your description.

I have included a picture in this article to prompt you to do a descriptive paragraph about the scene.  Imagine yourself at the bottom of the stairs and you must walk up the hill on this flight of stairs.  Describe your surroundings and what you are thinking about as you consider having to walk up the stairs.

Descriptive Writing Scenery

I would like to see your descriptive paragraphs.  Write your paragraph as a comment.  The more you write the better you will become and this is a good way to write but also to get a constructive critique of your work.

Enjoy writing.

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