When writing I've found that I have trouble describing ordinary things. For instance if I want to describe a chair I'll spend lots of time hunting down resources like this chair diagram, using google searches like 'chair anatomy'. This usually turns up very few results, or results with unusable poor image quality. Sometimes I find nothing at all.

Can anyone recommend a resource for helping with this? Specifically a search engine for labeled schematics or drawings, like in the link?

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    Describe them for what purpose. That diagram contains terms you might use if you were describing a chair to a cabinetmaker or an upholsterer. They are not the term you would use to describe it for any other purpose. You should always describe something in terms you audience understands and in ways they care about. Maybe you should think less about the anatomy of the object and more about the interests of your readers.
    – user16226
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 5:30

3 Answers 3


What you lack is not an outside resource such as a book or website, but an inside resource: active vocabulary.

Passive vocabulary is your ability to understand words that you encounter in spoken or written language. Active vocabulary is your ability to use words to express thoughts. Everyone has a larger passive than active vocabulary: you understand most of what you hear or read without having to look up words in a dictionary, but you often find yourself not having quite the right word to say what you want.

Active vocabulary can be trained. The more you speak and write and try to come up with words to describe what you see or express what you think, the more words will become active.

So just keep writing and with time your ability to find the right word will grow.


I think @what's answer is great. I would add that you may be looking to add a greater level of detail than is needed, in some cases. For example, if my character walks into a room and I want to describe the chair she sits in, I may say something like "The leather chair was worn down and comfortable, the imprints of many previous butts making the cushion soft." I might just say "She sat on the old leather chair." I'm not likely to need to have the correct name for the back or arm or leg or the nails that hold it all together, unless the character is then going to pick up a chair and brain someone with it (and I don't want someone picking up a chair twice their weight unless that has meaning) or take it apart to use the nail to pick a lock. If I do, then I'll research what the parts of the chair are called. It's important to strike a balance in the level of detail, as well as many other aspects of description.


Describe for Emotion

Readers generally don't care what a chair looks like. Tell them it's a chair, and they get it.

The exception is the case where you want to evoke an emotion using the chair. A throne might be majestic or self-indulgent or intimidating, depending on how you want the reader to feel about the ruler who sits in it.

In this case, the description of the chair is a tool for setting the tone for a character. Start with the tone you want, and work from there. If you want to imply that the ruler is intimidating, do some word association from there - big, bold, powerful, overbearing, etc.

Pretty soon you'll have a description of the throne - maybe: dark throne with a high back and sever styling on a raised dais that seems to tower over the hero.

You don't need to understand the anatomy of a throne to evoke emotions with it.

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