Writing Description

Ten Descriptive Writing Practices by Melissa Donovan from writingforward.com

Exercises in descriptive writing for contemporary audiences.

I think this radical change in how we approach description is directly tied to the wide availability of film, television, and photography. Let’s say you were living in the 19th century, writing a story about a tropical island for an audience of northern, urban readers. You would be fairly certain that most of your readers had never seen such an island and had no idea what it looked like.


Prompt: Devil’s Advocate

Choose a topic that you feel moderately about: favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Doctor, favorite Keats’ poem.

Have your protagonist defend it and your antagonist deride it.

Choose a topic that you feel strongly about: religion, politics, how you were raised.  It’s part of your identity, your core beliefs.

Have your antagonist defend this tenant.  Have your protagonist deride it.

Once you are done, look it over.  How did your approach and your tactics change?

An author once suggested that, to avoid being heavy-handed about your strongest beliefs, have a foolish or a villainous character argue your point.

Prompt: Know Your Character

Here is the prompt.

Choose a famous character, let’s say Scooby-doo.

List 5 things Scooby-doo can’t get enough of.  List 1 thing he can do without.


  1. Food
  2. Dressing up in costumes
  3. Napping
  4. Hanging with Shaggy
  5. Practical jokes on the gang


1. Monsters

Do the same exercise with your own character.

The question is not how long did it take you or hard it was to come up with your character’s 6 answers.  The question is how sure are you that the answers are right.  If you are unsure, then maybe you need to spend more time investigating your main character’s psyche.