Multipurpose Description

In chapter 8 of Free Within Ourselves, Rhodes explains that, “good description serves multiple ends.” Description conveys atmosphere, characterization, and setting, all of which complement and strengthen plot. If you’re interested in any of these aspects of your story or novel, you should also be interested in description.

More specifically, Rhodes says:

“Plot can never be separate from descriptive language. Sensory details provide the filter to enhance the meaning and nuances of a story. Characters can’t come alive without proper descriptions. Neither can the setting or the tone and attitudes of the world your characters live in be shown or suggested without descriptive language. Avoiding description means wasting a valuable resource. Your story will lack depth, literally its lifeblood without finely tuned description.”

Rhodes’s basic advice on description is that it should engage all five senses, be specific, and be measured by quality not quantity. As valuable as description is, you can overdo it with pages of meaningless details. Select the details that have the greatest impact and reveal the most information with the least amount of words.

In this chapter, a helpful exercise is another literary study. This time, study a story’s use of description for about an hour. Write in your journal all the lessons you can gather from the story. Finally, review a piece of your own writing and spend about twenty minutes revising.

For more on description, get your own copy of Free Within Ourselves.