Writers want readers to hear what they hear, see what they see, and feel what they feel.

This often leads to an overabundance of description. Because they want it exact. The image is so clear in their mind, they want other people to see it the way they do. The problem with this is that no one will ever see it the same way as the writer.

Imagine the color green.

Some of you will see the color of new grass. Others will see the yellow-green of new leaves, others will imagine a pale mint, while others will envision a combination of shades, like camouflage.

Even with something as simple as ‘green’, I can’t make you see what I see.

So the first step to good description is to understand and accept that you’ll never make readers see what you do.

The second step is to decide “What is IMPORTANT for the reader to see/hear/feel in this scene?”

Is it important that the shade of green the reader envisions is the exact one the writer does? Or is it enough that they get the idea of greenness? Is it important that the reader knows the lamp is to her left, with a pink shade and a yellow light — or is it enough to know the lamplight is diffused so that the shapes in the room are indistinct? Or that the light is bright enough to light each corner?

Choose what is important. And let the rest be.

 

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