DESCRIPTIVE WRITING101 by Sherrie Clark
We all love to read those books that are hard to put down, those books that compel us to turn the next page even when we should be doing something else. Then when we’re away from it, we can’t wait to pick it back up again and read more.
So what can we as authors do to write our book in a way that has the same kind of effect on our readers? How can we take our book from good to great?
There’s really no secret formula. It’s about telling a story that engages readers, and in so doing, provoking their senses so that they experience the sensations you desire. One way to accomplish this is through descriptive writing.
Sound a bit overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. When writing a scene, consider everything in your setting. What is the year, the season, the month, the location, and/or the time of day that it takes place? For example, does the scene take place on a cold, blustery February day? Does it take place in the middle of the night on a dark deserted road? Is the setting on a plantation in the deep south during the Civil War? Does it take place in the mountains of Colorado, or in the middle of rush hour traffic in New York City, or on a cruise ship in the Caribbean? All of these are external influences that set the mood.
Now think about the influences that internally affect your character. What does he or she see, feel, smell, hear, and taste within your setting? For instance, is your character taking a midnight stroll on a beach? Does he feel a cool breeze coming off the ocean and sand between his toes? Does he see stars in the sky? Does he smell the salt in the air? Does he hear the waves lapping upon the shore?
Maybe your character is sitting in a hot classroom taking a test. Does she feel anxious? Is she hot because the air conditioner is broken? Does she taste the sweat on her upper lip? Does she smell the musky wood from the old desk? Does she hear the clock ticking in the silence?
Becoming aware of your own sensory perceptions helps you understand your characters’ senses. When you do, your readers can’t help but feel what the characters are feeling. Even better, after sharing the same sensory experiences with your characters, they can’t help but bond with them. They’re hooked, and if you don’t let up, there’s no turning back for them.
Once that happens, sit back and smile because you, my friend, have just accomplished what all authors strive to do: you have created a bona fide page turner.