I feel as if, the novel I am writing will have a great plot and I have some creative ideas on where to go with it. My only concern is my ability to develop description through out my story. Any tips on how to get that description flowing with out losing sight of my plot?

  • 1
    Write the plot first; add the descriptions in the next draft where the setting requires it. Apr 6, 2015 at 10:31
  • Thank you, that helps a lot! I think it will also allow me to keep the tone of the situation present without wandering off.
    – Rhyan
    Apr 6, 2015 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


A few guidelines I learned from Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

  1. Describe whatever the character has an opinion about.

    This guideline helps me figure out what to describe. If it matters to the character in the moment, it goes in.

    Describing through the character's five senses makes the descriptions rich and vivid.

  2. Whatever you describe, describe it through the character's five senses. Not a word goes into the story except through the senses and opinions of the character.

    This guideline helps me figure out how to describe things. All description is through the senses and opinions of the character.

    Describing through the character's opinions makes the details do extra work. Each description not only describes, but also characterizes the character.


I have the same problem --plot is my strength and description is my weakness. I think it corresponds with being a "big picture" person rather than detail-oriented.

Something that helps me is to remember that description isn't just decoration, it can do a lot of substantive work. It can foreshadow, echo, or recall plot elements. It can develop a subtext, or illuminate the characters' feelings or relationships. And of course, most fundamentally, it gives your story a sense of place, and enables the reader see what you see in your mind.

As an example, suppose you're writing a mystery thriller. Your main character is in the kitchen of a house and he notices a mousetrap in the corner. The mousetrap can be symbolic of the plot. The fact of the mousetrap being there can tell a bit about the house and the owners --is the house dirty? Is the mousetrap shabby? new? lethal? What's it baited with? Does the main character empathize with the person who set the trap, or with the mouse, etc?

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