It is often a conundrum for writers to know how much description to put into their work. They want their readers to be able to conjur up images of the world they’ve created, without stumbling down the path of ‘purple prose’.
Too many fancy analogies or unusual metaphors will only serve to throw your readers out of the world of the book, not welcome them in. I only need to know that ‘he frowned’, not that ‘his thick eyebrows drew together like two furry caterpillars sizing each other up for a duel’.
But too little description can leave readers feeling removed from your story, not giving them the chance to become emotionally involved.
The way to perfect your description is not through intricate details or metaphors, it is through using all of the senses.
When your character walks into a room I don’t care if the wallpaper is pea green or moss green (unless it’s important to the story), I want to feel like I’m stepping into the room myself.
- I want to smell the flowers in the vase
- I want to hear the piano being played
- I want to feel the coldness of the stone tiled floor
- I want to taste the dust on my tongue
- and I want to see the sunlight streaming through the window
Take your reader into the room with you, don’t leave them standing outside looking through the window.
Have You Got More Sense Than You Thought?
Writers are often advised to appease all of the five senses in their writing. We don’t just experience the world by sight (in truth, some people don’t experience it that way at all), but we can smell it, hear it, taste it, and feel it too.
But that’s not where the senses stop. There are more than five senses. In fact, there are at least 22 of them.
There are senses that you’ll include regularly in your writing without realising it. Senses like sense of time, thermoception (temperature differences) or magnetoception (direction). These easily slip in by themselves: afterall, time passes, warm days turn to cool nights, and people move around.
So what would it take to include the full spectrum of the senses? How about including nociception (pain), equilibrioception (balance) or kinaesthesia (acceleration)?
To write a piece that contains every single one of the senses certainly is an interesting idea for a writing challenge…