Some tips for writing rich descriptions

Slice of Life2I am participating in #SliceofLife20. Thanks to twowritingteachers team for creating this welcoming space for writers to write, share, and grow.


Yesterday I wrote about using a senses chart to help you get started with a poem. Of course, a senses chart helps writers to craft a rich description. While writing descriptions may sound like an easy task, it really isn’t.  It is important to be specific. Don’t summarize in your descriptions. Offer concrete information and engage readers with moment-to-moment details. Tell your readers about each detail and how they affect the senses. Here are some tips:

Draw or sketch.

Try to use at least two senses.

Describe with color, shape, or size words.

Sprinkle in a variety of relevant key words (If you are writing a story about fishing with your Uncle Frank, then sprinkle words that a fisherman might use in your text).

Use a simple comparison or simile.

Use a variety of sentence lengths.

Consider using a sentence with adjective interrupters; that is adjectives that follow the noun they describe rather than to be placed directly in front of the noun described. (The morning mist, silver and silent, crept into my garden.)

For older students, try using absolutes. An absolute is a two-word combination – a noun and an –ing form of a verb – added to a sentence.  In other words, the writer combines a noun with an –ing participle. (Eyes watering, Mom sliced the onion.)

Revise for alliteration, personification, and stance.

Do not bury important information in the middle of a sentence. The end is best for the most impact. The second choice would be to start a sentence with important information.

Here is my example:

My grandfather’s old chair, a mustard-yellow cowhide, was sturdy and broad enough to hold a granddaughter and her grandpa.  The armrests were worn burgundy where strong arms and hands had once rested. The cracked leather seat cushion and gold metal tacks to frame the leather whispered of the old chair’s age. Four strong, lion-clawed legs held up its massive frame, almost in defiance to the ticking sounds of the old grandfather clock that marked the passing of time. As I sat alone in the chair, smelling the leather, I started to conjure up faint whiffs of my grandpa: Life Boy soap, Listerine, and Old Spice After Shave. Yes, my grandpa was here with me when I sat in his chair. If I closed my eyes, I could even hear his 45 records spinning out coal-mining songs like “I owe my soul to the company store…” or simple love songs: “I give to you and you give to me, true love, true love…”  Sitting in his chair was like nestling in a familiar lap,  the seat cushion now cracked and split and spilling stuffing outward. Great creases running like lifelines, streaks of summer lightning.



6 thoughts on “Some tips for writing rich descriptions

  1. Rich description indeed! Your paragraph of your grandfather’s chair is filled with them. I especially like the specific and concrete details: warm burgundy, sturdy and broad, cracked leather, and the brand names –not just soap but Lifebuoy soap, not just mouthwash but Listerine, etc., And the song lyrics. And the last line is just beautiful: Great creases running like life lines, streaks of summer lightning. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful example of the importance of description and how much it adds to a piece. Rich description helps the reader clearly see what the author wants him/her to see. Appealing to the senses adds a extra layer of richness to a piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clare, when my grandmother died, I brought the chair home from Quakertown and had it in my house for fifteen years before I parted with it. It was really not in good shape at that point. I remember crying off and on for days after I let it go. It was like losing my grandfather all over again.


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