Writing Location Descriptions — Show, Don’t Tell.

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I hope you do too. 🙂

I love when I’m reading and a new location comes into play within a scene. The visual description the author brings to the reader is so important. And as writers we have ensure we cover all the elements we need for the reader to have the same image in their mind that we do in ours.

Each time I have to describe a new location, from a simple passageway, to a bedroom, or a sweeping panorama, I ask myself the following questions.

  • What are 2 to 4 key components of this place? These are the items which stand out with clear emphasis. Use more if you need them.
  • What are 1 to 3 small features that will take this description and make it something special? Examples of this are like the stitching in bedcovers, the fabrics used on furniture, or a cobweb in the corner of a room. Find something unique that will push your description in the direction you want it to go.
  • Is this place important? What’s its history? (Sometimes, only the author needs to know this question, but there are times when this is shared with the reader during the description because it’s important to the storyline.)
  • Remember the five senses. Sight, smell, taste, feel and speak.
  • And ensure you show your reader what you’re seeing. This is so important.

Now, not all the answers will be used, but most of them will within the scene. Most importantly, these detailed descriptions I’m speaking of come when you show your location for the first time. When you bring this same location back in another scene, there will be less description needed because you have already drawn it. So, let’s jump to it and see some examples, because I find it’s so important to add a showing to my posts.

  • Example one: To set this scene, the heroine is out riding in the outback.

We rode, our surroundings still beautiful in spite of the harsh drought. Brilliant colors shimmered around us, red the predominant, with the dusty landscape broken by the towering gum trees. Beyond the rocky hills, the Ridge rose steeply to meet the rich blue of the sky. The sight enthralled, because the Ridge was like a slab of stone appearing out of nowhere.

  • Example two: To set this scene, the heroine is relaxing on the beach of a small private island with her brother. Here, her brother becomes part of the scene description to describe the relaxed feel of the location.

For miles either side, the land was all high, jagged cliff faces with only one single track leading inland through the jungle. Near the beginning of the track, her brother had slung a colorful hammock and rested, his straw hat drawn low over his head as he rocked in the gentle breeze.

  • Example three: To set this scene, the heroine has never been to this place before. She’s walking down a passageway and into a bedroom that’s far more than what she’s used to seeing.

The passageway was wide, yet dimly lit with wall sconces holding candlelike bulbs. She didn’t slow since all the doors were closed, but at the fifth which she’d been told was hers, she halted. The ornate brass knob was curved, and she pushed it open. Wow. The room was three times the size of what she had back home. And from the size of that bed, she’d get lost in it.

She headed across the polished wooden flooring and gripped one of the four carved hardwood posts that rose high above the bed to support a canopy of sheer lace netting. She pushed one corner of the lace aside, and smoothed her hand over the violet silk covers. So pretty, with detailed stitching in mauve and gold thread.

  • Example four: To set this scene, the heroine is standing on a rocky cliff face before a large palace.

She stood on the precipice and stared down its craggy side. The ocean was eerily beautiful, almost beyond magnificent in its violent splendor.

Turning on her heel, she saw the palace. Wind whipped her hair about as she gazed up. So unreal. It was four floors in height and constructed of large blocks of gray-black stone. From each of the many corners, a slender tower rose to double the height of the palace, at least a dozen towers visible from her position. This residence was a fortress, although a stunning one with light shining from behind stained glass from the largest of the windows.

So, in writing detailed location descriptions, your goal is to bring your reader into the location you’ve set. Have them standing there, touching, feeling and seeing what you do. I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it aided you in some way.

Have a fabulous week. If you want to drop a comment, make sure you do. I love hearing from you all.

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11 thoughts on “Writing Location Descriptions — Show, Don’t Tell.

  1. Liked and Tweeted! I always worry that I’m boring the Gentle Reader with my descriptions, but I want them to see it exactly as I do. A hundred thousand thanks for this post!

  2. As a writer myself, I often fall into the trap of telling, not showing. I’m trying really hard to do better and I have improved. This was a great blog as it just reminded me how important it is to show the scene rather than just telling. Thankyou!

  3. I am not an author of books, but I have been blogging. This will help with my blog posts! Your examples accomplished what you set out to do….it brought me right there alongside the characters 🙂

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