Use Descriptive Writing to
Make Your Readers Feel Your Pain

When you want to pump up the feeling in your story, descriptive writing is the best way to accomplish your goal. This type of writing can give your story a completely different experience with a few simple adjustments.

Writing a highly effective story can be difficult. If you want to get into very technical details and obsess over perfect style and grammar, you will not find that help and advice here. However, I will discuss descriptive writing in simple terms that beginners can understand and put to use.

So let's get started...

What exactly is descriptive writing?

Descriptive writing is using words to show your readers what you experience rather than simply telling them. What does that mean, exactly?

Let me give you a quick example:

Non-descriptive would be something like this:

My boss acts like a jerk.

By adding descriptive writing elements, your short, easy sentence might change to something like this:

My boss took a stance that staggered his feet one in front of the other, giving him a leaning, aggressive posture; looking as if he could lunge over the desk towards me with one swift push from the points of his fake leather shoes. Most days, he would place his bony fingers on my desk and lean down to look me square in the eye. But today, he chose to keep his position above mine and actually look down upon me as if to silently affirm his feelings of superiority

By describing the situation rather than simply telling you that my boss acts like a jerk, you can begin to visualize the circumstances much better. This leaves a little less to the imagination and by doing so, leads your readers closer towards your actual experience versus letting them jump to their own conclusions and possibly not getting the picture you're trying to paint.

You'll also notice that it takes more time to describe something well. I took one short sentence and transformed it into a short paragraph instead. I have always felt that using descriptive writing is like writing in slow motion. Sometimes, an action that only took a second in real time will seem to take three minutes by breaking down the feelings, smells, and visuals of that act. And by slowing it down and really describing every minute detail, your readers will begin to put themselves in your shoes... and that's what we are really trying to achieve.

If we're writing about our stressful lives and hardships that we've experienced, we want our readers to empathize with us. We want them to feel our pain, not just say that they understand it. This is what descriptive writing can do for your story.

So here are some easy tips to remember when you begin to experiment with descriptive writing:

  • Slow it down. By slowing down the action, you allow yourself to go into more detail, not only about the action that takes place, but the surroundings and feelings involved. Give your readers the full experience.
  • Use adjectives... but be careful. Some adjectives are very subjective. Something that you find pretty or ugly may not be what your reader finds pretty or ugly. So describe in detail and let your reader decide for themselves. Don't over simplify if you want powerful results.
  • Use nouns and verbs. Using nouns and verbs in descriptive writing can be more difficult than simply using adjectives, however if you can learn to mix the types of words you use, you will get a more polished result.

Here's an example:

Using an adjective:

His cologne smelled disgusting. (In this example, disgusting is our adjective. And while this does use a descriptive word to let the readers know what you think, they may wonder if your opinion has merit).

Replacing with a noun:

His cologne smelled like the spray of a skunk. (The spray of a skunk is a noun because it is a thing, not just a descriptive word such as disgusting).

Learning and mastering this technique will take some time and practice if you are not a very experienced writer. However, if you use creativity, descriptive writing can be fun instead of daunting.

Challenge yourself to really make others understand and feel what you are experiencing.

Try new words. Subscribe to a word-of-the-day website, email list, or add a gadget to your computer that will teach you a new word each day. You could even do something as simple as picking up an inexpensive dictionary or thesaurus and open to a random page and point to a random word... you can do anything that will give you a broader vocabulary.

Keep notes about your new words. You may even want to add a section to the back of your journal. Write down the words you like as well as their definitions. This will make them easy to refer to in the future and help you remember how to use the word without having to look it up again. Write down a few examples of how you might use it in your own stories. A few of these extra steps will keep your writing projects easier and less stressful.

Get creative... make it fun.

The end result will not only be something you can be proud of, but will have helped you enjoy the journey. And remember, the more you practice and experiment, the better you will get with this technique. Don't expect yourself to be a master of descriptive writing right away.

Every time you write something new or look back and revise your old stories, you will improve... don't get so caught up in technicalities that you forget to enjoy the ride!

Get more tips on How to Write a Story

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