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5 Descriptive Writing Exercises

Descriptive writing exercises

Descriptions are what will bring words to life. When they are engaging to a reader, it transports that person to the moment being described within a narrative. Writers that can establish moods, stimulate the senses, and encourage an emotional response with their words will create a narrative which everyone will want to read. These descriptive writing exercise can help each writer be able to work on this specific skill so it can be improved.

#1. Create a Detail Inventory

Since it is the senses which must be stimulated in the words that are written, it is necessary for writers to be able to include specific details with accuracy within their narrative to get the desired reader result. This can be worked on by creating what is called a “detail inventory.”

Let’s say after reading this, you take a 5-minute break to have a snack. Your senses are going to be engaged in a variety of ways. What are you tasting? What are you smelling? What can you see outside your window from your table? What is the texture of the food? What is the temperature of the room? How does your body feel right now?

Focus on each individual sense after answering the questions above. Describe the emotions that are associated with each one. Then create a list of descriptive words that would create a similar emotional response in a reader.

#2. The Outside World

Pick one spot outside that you love to visit. It could be the beach, a park behind your house, or even the grocery store if you wish. Now go there and describe what the space looks like. You’re not focusing on any of the actions happening or dialogue you hear. You’re focusing on the scene only.

How would you describe the wind at the beach? Or the stillness of the backyard park in the early morning? What about the smells of the bakery that come in the early morning when no other customers are in the grocery store? These are the details that will help to transport readers into that scene. Practice putting the initial focus onto these details early on in your narrative and your descriptive writing will dramatically improve.

#3. Focus on the Future

Not all scenes happen in the real world. There are several genres in writing that focus on history or even the future. To make these scenes feel accurate, a writer must still focus on the details of each component that makes up this world.

Think about H.G. Wells. As a writer, there was no way to envision the current world we have with the internet, billions of connected devices, and other aspects of modern technology. He envisioned a world based on his concept of the future and then put in the details necessary to turn that world into a reality. You can do the same thing.

Think about an object that might be something we use in the future. What will smartphones be like? Will we still have computers? Use your imagination to pick something from the future. Focus on it. Picture it in your mind. Then write about it.

#4. Edit the Book

Modern writing often fails to include descriptions. New writers often fail to even include them into their narratives, even when they may be necessary. This makes for a wonderful descriptive writing exercise.

Pick out a book written in the last 5 years. Any book. Then edit it to make sure all of the necessary descriptive elements are in there. If not, then begin writing them as if you were the editor of the book who was going to include those elements. This exercise allows you to identify descriptive gaps in your own writing while working on your descriptions – that’s a win/win for any writer.

#5. Show and Tell

Far too often these days, writers are telling their readers what is going on instead of showing them what is going on. For example:

Telling the reader: “John was happy. He was so happy that he couldn’t have been any happier. He couldn’t ever remember being this happy.”

Showing the reader: “A smile formed on John’s face. His cheeks felt flushed and his heart raced. No matter what, his smile wouldn’t stop. If anything, it kept getting bigger the more he thought about things.”

Practice showing the reader what a character is feeling through descriptive terms instead of just telling them the emotions or circumstances being experienced. This allows the reader to engage their own imagination because they can picture themselves experiencing the same things.

These descriptive writing exercises are designed to help provide more depth to the narratives and content that you create. Description inclusion is a skill, just like any other component of writing. The more you do it, then the easier it will be to keep doing it. Start practicing today and you should soon see an improvement in your narrative descriptions.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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