Scene Description Helps

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    Edmund Lloyd Fletcher

    The thing I struggle most with in writing is, “What am I NOT saying?”  (It’s easy to edit what’s there.  Much harder to determine what ISN’T!)

    One of the top offenders I’m always worried about is that I may be missing out on things as far as scene description goes.  I mean, I “see it” in my mind when I read it, but how do I know what I’m leaving out that would make the reader’s experience more rich/immersive?

    With that in mind, what my question is: What kind of scene description helps are there to guide a person through the process?

    In comparison, there are all kinds of formulas you can fill out for overall plots (Hero’s Journey, etc), is there something similar to that for scenes&settings?

    Or, also for plots, they sometime have more of a menu of common story elements/tropes you can drop in.  Are there such lists for scenes as well?? I guess that would look something like: you a fantasy story, the character walks into a medieval tavern, typical description elements are: wooden tables, blazing hearth, tankards of ale, ruffians, etc.

    So far all of my searching has turned up very little.  In fact, the only thing even close I’ve found is:
    Which was useful(ish), yet despite the title, wasn’t as much a “circle one: A, B, C” formula as I was hoping for.

    What do you think?  Is there anything like this?

    Homeschooling father of 10, writing Christian action/adventure novels from my home high in the Rockies.

    Jane Maree

    @edmund-lloyd-fletcher One great piece of description advice I was once given (which has changed my life) is to go through each of the five senses in each new setting.

    It doesn’t have to be all five in every place, but sight, sound, smell are good ones for a room. If it’s something touchable, describing the texture is also good.

    It’s particularly important to remember to describe the lighting in every new setting, so the readers know if they should imagine the scene as dim and hazy, or as bright, happy sunlight.


    Other ways to draw the reader further into the setting is by describing the small details. e.g. don’t describe the whole shop window, just the fairy lights strung above it. Mention the spiderweb-like cracks in the pavement. The soggy autumn leaves in the puddles. Little details can really be so so effective in bringing a scene to life.


    Does that help a little?

    Writing Heroes ♦ Writing Hope // janemareeauthor.com.au

    Josiah DeGraaf

    One of the best pieces of advice I heard on this subject (I think from an episode of Writing Excuses, though I’m not sure…) is that a good description consists of two things: a general description of what’s being shown, and then 1-3 vividly-depicted specific details that set the stage (number dependent on what kind of scene it is). If you choose the right details, the reader’s imagination will be able to fill in all the other details without requiring a page-long description. For example (and I’m pretty sure I’m stealing this example from Writing Excuses as well) “the dilapidated gas station with a blinking neon sign” is a pretty short description, but because it gives us both a general setting and a detail, most readers should be able to fill in the rest of the details to imagine what sort of location you’re talking about.

    Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com

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