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Reply To: Apt Words for Writing Descriptions

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Rose
@rose-colored-fancy

@noah-cochran

Hi Noah! Nice to see you again!

My aim is not fancy vocabulary, this is about more eloquent and concise writing. Words that I have found useful in this arena are: Embossed, Adorned (very basic, but it should be mentioned), Lacquered, and the term “inlaid with”.

Brian has already given you quite a selection of words, so I’m not going to repeat that 😉

I can’t say I have a specific group of words that I always use, but one of the best tricks I’ve figured out is to try to describe things in motion or at least describe them with verbs. Now, let me illustrate my point.

Here’s a short description that I just made up: (That dress does actually appear in my WIP, incidentally)

“She wore a bright yellow dress with ornate embroidery on the bodice. The dress’ cut was simple, but the embroidery in dusty rose, seafoam green, and ochre made it more formal.”

(That was hard to write, it felt so deeply wrong XD)

Now, watch what happens when you ‘set it in motion’.

“The bright yellow dress billowed in the wind and the girl tried to push the linen down as it swirled up around her knees. Embroidery curled across the bodice, seafoam green, ochre, and dusty rose dancing across the fabric in intricate curls.”

See the difference? The second one seems far more alive and interesting, and it feels like the story is still moving, whereas it felt like you stopped the story to describe it in the first one.

Whenever possible, set something in motion before you describe it, especially when it’s something someone is wearing, like clothing or jewelry.

Don’t say the ox-drawn cart is decrepit, say that the axel creaked ominously as the ox strained at it, the crooked wheels jamming firmly in the mud. It’s like a small-scale “show, don’t tell”.

Now, to zoom in to word choice. Check out the first example and look at the verbs. “She wore. The dress was. The embroidery made it–” Those are awfully drab verbs, even if the description is interesting.

Now, in the second, I used motion verbs to describe things that weren’t actually in motion. “Embroidery curled. The colors danced across the fabric.” It isn’t literally doing all those things, but it gives you the sense that the dress is moving and it appears to be doing that. When it is actually moving, I used the most active verbs I could.

(Quick note, picking verbs is always about accuracy, not exaggeration. Don’t say someone ‘screeched’ or ‘bellowed’ if they didn’t actually do that.)

Some words have more inherent motion than others. Curled, swirled, bounced, danced, just to name a few. I like to use those in descriptions, but listen to your intuition and don’t put them in places they don’t belong.

Here’s taking that example too far:

“The yellow dress undulated in the gust of wind. The girl desperately tried to shove it down as it flounced up around her knees. The embroidery ricocheted across the bodice, every thread vibrating with color.”

(That was one of the most ludicrous descriptions I’ve written and I did it mostly for my own amusement XD)

It still isn’t terrible but it comes across as a bit melodramatic. I guess the only way to tell when it’s enough or too much is just to follow your intuition. *Shrugs*

It’s fine to practice these things, but in my first draft, I’ll often use very dry descriptions, just to jot it down faster. You might end up deleting that entire scene and then the time will be wasted.

This wasn’t entirely on-topic, but it’s the best I could do since Brian already answered your question.

Hope this helped! Happy writing!

  • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Rose.

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