If one tries to describe sth. very concrete, like a house, for instance, one could try it with different approaches:

  • describing the very physical attributes: the house is 5m wide, 5m deep and 5m high. It is divided into two equal levels, each bearing a round window on each side. It has a plane roof with a short chimney in the middle.

  • describing the very physical attributes by using metaphors: the house is a suggercube the size of an elephant, it has mouseholes covered with glass on each side, the smoking-pipe is coughing dark matter.

  • describing the very physical attributes by their emotional impact on a person: Its walls embraced me, i felt love coming out of the chimey while the breeze invited breeze through the windows to make me comfortable, i did not want to leave it cause this was the house - my home and family made out of bricks.

those are only three approaches, that i randomly tried without any categorical system underlying.

Could you provide such systems of description ? Maybe there is a theoretical framework that introduces the many different approaches and gives advice when to use which.

  • Interesting question; why do you ask? Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:06
  • i never used to read or write anything in my life, until lately (few days ago) i set myself a goal to proof myself being able to write a story i would like to watch (since i never used to read). so i lack very very much experience and hope to compensate it to some degree by using a shortcut by reading about the ideas people develeoped who read a lot.
    – meireikei
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:15
  • Great question! And, nice initial contribution to demonstrate the desired answer. Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 5:40
  • 1
    I'm afraid no such study exists, and any attempt to create a comprehensive list would be futile. See my recent answer for multiple examples. Any half-decent author will adapt the description style to the purpose it serves on top of informing the reader about the object - telling the reader about whoever presents it, setting the mood, or attaching special properties to the object without writing about them expressly (say, "expensive, classy" or "very desirable").
    – SF.
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 7:28

2 Answers 2


Too long for a comment, so an answer:

In all of your recent questions you ask about objective rules that you can blindly apply.

For example, you'd like to learn which grammatical structure is most readable, and then plan to use that structure, believing your final text will be a readable text. But language is not mathematics, and readable is not the same as enjoyable or meaningful.

Language has rhythm and a melody, and a text is composed to please the ear (Sprachgefühl) of the reader. Language is used to express thoughts and emotions, and the best linguistic structure will vary with what thought or emotion you want to express. In one situation a simple ("readable") sentence will be appropriate, in another a complex ("difficult") sentence will better convey your meaning, or "sound" better.

You only learn language by doing language. If, as you say, you haven't read anything in your life, you lack an inuitive understanding of language, and you need to train your "language muscle" – by reading and writing.

  • Quite right. Meireikei appears to try to approach the Art of Creative Writing like one approaches a Science or a Craft. Not that there's no craft part to it, but unlike technical/non-fiction/scientific/formal writing, the style of creative writing must be highly adaptative, following the story. You just can't pick one single style and write a whole novel never changing it.
    – SF.
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 13:18

You can also have an anthropomorphic approach to description.

This makes the thing you are describing have a life of its own.

The walls sighed. The door groaned. The chimney belched smoke. The floors shrieked. etc. etc.

  • Most writers don't purely use these devices alone. They are better used in synthesis. Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 16:30

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