Lesson Six

Lesson 6: Be Specific When Writing Your Descriptions

This is the sixth lesson in the How To Show And Not Tell In Short Stories course.

 

NOTE: If you want a downloadable, printable PDF of this course, you can buy one for a small fee from our store. The workbook is an advert-free, easy-to-download version of the online course.

In the previous lesson, we discussed the importance of sensory detail as a ‘showing’ tool. In this lesson we will look at how being specific can help you ‘show’. When we leave description to chance, we miss an opportunity to connect with the reader.

Specific descriptions help us to create an image in the readers’ minds. We allow them to fill in the blanks and help them to see what we want to ‘show’ them.

“If I tell you my character has grey hair, you will not see her. If I tell you she has a tiny scar at the upper left corner of her lip from which protrudes one grey whisker—you will make up the rest of her face with absolute clarity. If I tell you my character is waiting in a car, you won’t be ‘caught,’ but if I tell you he pushes his fingers down in the crack of the car seat where the ancient leather has pulled away from the seat frame, and pulls up a small coin purse with a faded note in it—you will be mine.” ~Pat Schneider

Adjectives are the tools we use to describe. The red car. The black cat. These work, but let’s try to make them more specific and little more exciting. Strong nouns and verbs will make this job easier.

Example 1

Tell: The red car drove quickly down the road.
Show: The Ferrari zoomed down Fifth Avenue.
OR
The Corsa’s gearbox whined in protest, a red dot bouncing between potholes.

Example 2

Tell: The black cat sat on the mat.
Show: The cat lounged on the carpet, a pool of midnight in a sea of shag.

Exercises

Rewrite these descriptions, change them to ‘showing’ examples by using strong nouns and verbs.

  1. The red fruit.
  2. Green grass.

When we are specific, we channel the story. We make our words do double-duty.

Recommended Read:  

 What’s Next?

In our next lesson we will discuss words that make you ‘tell’.

Please click here for Lesson Seven

NOTE: If you want a downloadable, printable PDF of this course, you can buy one for a small fee from our store. The workbook is an advert-free, easy-to-download version of the online course.

Posted on: 8th April 2020
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