Coffee and writing are two loves that have a lot of similarities–find out why!
By Shelley Widhalm
I hate when I order a fancy coffee drink and the cup gets bathed in the overflow.
But I love that my drink has a flavor, an appearance and a texture inside the cup and that observing those details gets rid of the annoyance.
Observing, absorbing and noticing details are essential to writing, giving a caffeinated thrill to the development of plot, character and dialog. Describing the details is essential to storytelling instead of hurrying the story along through the action of the plot.
Why Description is Important
Description brings to life what happens along the storyline.
To provide that description, use the senses and choose words carefully, making sure every word has a purpose. That purpose can be establishing setting, developing character or moving the plot forward.
Verbs are a key component of description, much less so than adjectives, which qualify a noun or noun phrase to provide more information about the object being described. The river spit onto the rocks is more descriptive than the bubbling river.
Adjectives, when used, should be kept simple and not layered, such as the “blue-eyed, blonde-haired, tongue-tied girl.”
What to Avoid in Description
There are a few other things to avoid in descriptions, such as:
- Using adverbs, which weaken writing when they are not specific. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. For example, saying that your character slowly walked across the room (here “slowly” modifies walked) does not give the reader as good of a mental picture as: “She shuffled to her bed, falling into it after working 12 hours.”
- Writing in the passive voice, using “he was,” “they were” and the like. The passive voice slows down the action, while distancing the reader from what’s being said.
- Using general words, instead of concrete details and specific nouns and verbs. Tree and bird are general nouns, as opposed to a birch oak or maple and a cardinal or robin.
A Final Thought on Description
Description is what fills the pages of a story. Without it, action would fall flat, simplified into an outline of this happened, and then this and this.
That’s why I like my coffee fancy.