I admit. I am crazy about descriptive passages in novels. I like to go back and reread them. savoring. the people, the settings, the seasons. But too many of them can bore our readers. After all, they want to see things happen. In my rewrites, I cut many of these sentences so my story does not lose momentum.
The ones I tend to keep are the ones that offer powerful visual imagery. That is, the scene or character I am describing provides a visual, a picture in the mind’s eye. Let’s take a look a few examples.
From Tom Barbash’s The Dakota Winters, we know how the snow looked. Bonus points to Barbash for engaging our sense of smell.
The snow was filthy and the birds looked cold. There were twigs in the ice. It smelled cold and dirty.”
From The Bark Peeler’s Daughter (hey, that’s my book!), a picture of winters when the rains caused massive flooding.
“…the rain fell and the river swelled. Children, like little Gorton’s fishermen in yellow rain slickers and galoshes, kissed their mothers good-bye on their porches and climbed into rowboats that ferried them to the bus stop.”
Let’s just take a couple: spring and summer.
From Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, I can visualize it, the character’s grief over his mother’s death tied to daffodils that bloom every spring.
“…spring, a seasonal echo of my mother’s death blowing in with the daffodils.”
Elizabeth Gilbert writes, in City of Girls, about summer in New York City.
“…It was July 15, 1942. The town was perched proud and solid on its nest of granite, tucked between its two dark rivers. Its stacks of skyscrapers glittered like columns of fireflies in the velvety summer air.
The use of similes—comparing one thing to another— can be a way to help the reader understand a character’s actions or thoughts.
From Richard Russo’s Mohawk, we get a visual (and hilarious) sense of the character’s personality.
…”The spatula Harry was using for emphasis was fluttering in front of his nose like a demented metal bird.”
In Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson describes the face of a character who is trying to explain something and another character doesn’t get it. Since The $10,000 Pyramid was my favorite game show, I loved this one.
“…he continued, frowning. He looked like he was on The $10,000 Pyramid and he couldn’t believe his partner hadn’t yet guessed the answer.”
There you have it. Ways to instantly spice up your writing through visual imagery, whether it is for a blog post or a novel.