In my novel, the protagonist starts out as a runaway slave, and I want to point out to the reader that she is avoiding those who are in charge of slaves who all wear a uniform involving a blue shirt and brown leather jacket. I have her travel through a busy crowd, and I want to show her being paranoid whenever she sees the colour blue. However, I do not know where it would be sensible to describe the uniform of these men. Do I include it where the characters are first introduced (which is currently in a flashback to the MC's childhood)? Or would it make more sense to include the description later when they are being spotted by someone due to the distinctiveness of the uniform?

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    That's really not something we can tell you. It all depends on your style of writing and the story you want to tell. If you are unsure, I think you should plot out the different versions in a very rough manner and see which you like best. Then just write that, and maybe change it, when you rewrite after getting feedback from your beta readers.
    – user5645
    Aug 18, 2016 at 22:44
  • @what I'm re-writing at the moment, and in my first draft there was no description, I didn't make them distinctive so I'm just trying to figure out good places to put descriptions. When I read I often skim over descriptions, because I've got a mental image, but I hardly ever read books with a description of a uniform short of "here's you uniform go put it on" or something along those lines Aug 18, 2016 at 22:50
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    I'm going to second what on this being something we can't really tell you. I also would question what books (or genre even) that you are reading where there is little to no description of what groups or people are wearing (official uniform or no). If you are really struggling to find some, start with David Eddings, Raymond E Feist, Robert Jordan, JK Rowling, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Wilbur Smith, Steven Erikson, Brandon Sanderson or nearly anyone else - I guarantee there is a description of clothing and or uniforms in any of them.
    – user18397
    Aug 19, 2016 at 1:07
  • @Thomo thanks for the recommendations, Fiest is one of my favourite authors, I will definitely skim back through some of his books I've already read. Aug 19, 2016 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


We can't tell you how to write your story, but this is a kind of question that comes up from time to time, the sort that asks: "What is the correct way to do this thing?" Making a rule for yourself about where to describe a thing means that you're making your fiction formulaic and consistent. Good prose has life to it, it's not a list of people, places, events, and descriptions.

Descriptions are a writing technique like any other. They can set the stage and ground the reader, sometimes by conveying atmospheric information and sometimes by giving detail important to the plot. While the plot in this story demands some amount of description, please take care not to over-use it or use it in a predictable way.

From your question, it sounds like you're going to be in this character's head more than a little, so it's important to ask yourself how she would view the world. She'd live in fear of those who could return her to slavery, of course, and she'd search for these distinctive uniforms. But the reader can find out why this is the case anytime in the story. You do not need to set up cause and effect like ducks in a row in a story, you just need to keep the reader satisfied and interested.

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