I have read upon more than one occasion that the best way to keep your readers interested is to leave out the boring bits. Usually this means description because it’s the one place where nothing is happening. Dialogue and action move the story forward but description is like a rest area where you’re supposed to enjoy the scenery. So the question becomes how do we make our descriptive passages interesting, because it goes without saying we can’t just do away with description altogether.
Let’s look at an example.
“Alone in his flat, Marco constructs tiny rooms from scraps of paper. Hallways and doors crafted from pages of books and bits of blueprint, pieces of wallpaper and fragments of letters.
He composes chambers that lead into others that Celia has created. Stairs that wind around her halls.”
From THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern
This is a description of what Marco makes and while it might not make as much sense to those who haven’t read the book (which I highly recommend, by the way) you can still see how lovely it is, hear the cadence of the words, perhaps even picture what Marco is making.
The trick then is making our descriptions come alive with voice. I don’t know about you but I can hear the longing in that short little passage and I get the feeling we’re talking about more than architecture. This is how to make your descriptions stand out, be memorable, and above all, be interesting.
Now it’s your turn. Think you have a short descriptive passage worthy of showing off? Something you’re proud of having written? If so we’d love for you to share it in the comments. Or maybe you have one you’d like help making sparkle. In that case send it to email@example.com and I’ll critique it on Tuesday. 500 words or less, please and thank you in advance for your submissions. Remember, critiquing helps all of us :)