I am working on a story where a character is witnessing something being written out but I don't know the correct way to write that.

It will write out death

I wrote out

I witnessed something being scratched into the floor, There was a D then an E, then an A then a T and H

But I can tell this is very wrong and doesn't flow at all but I am trying to show how it's not written out as


I want the reader to know it was being scratched right infront of them letter by letter not just reading the word Death on the floor

I also want it to inflict a sort of fear since it is something abnormal and they are not just reading something they found and are witnessing it.

3 Answers 3


One common piece of advice for this sort of scenario, is to focus more on the character's response. And, try to raise the tension progressively, during the experience.

If we are in the POV of the person watching DEATH being written out, we may suspect what the word is at DE or DEA.

But, maybe the character hopes against hope that the word will be DEAR or DEAL or something.

So add in the response to your POV character, and raise the tension wth each letter written. Add in dread, racing heart, the character breaking into a sweat as he/she watches that "T" form, maybe the character whimpers, knowing that DEAT only leads to one possible word .....

You could draw this out into a paragraph. And when the 'H' falls, the character may have some precipitous response, hurling themselves backwards agains a wall, panicked look around the room, something.

This idea has some analogies to the idea of a ticking timer, and how that device is useful for building tension. You have a possible opportunity here...


First, this question seems to be in a vacuum. We know nothing about WHO or what is scratching out the message/letters. That's more important than anything. Let's say it's being done by an invisible hand and maybe someone else is nearby--

At my feet a straight line appeared, as though an invisible hand were scratching the groove into the floor. But it wasn't just a line, now it was a letter--D. I looked on in fascinated horror as more grooves appeared next to the first, and after an agonizingly long time, it too became a letter. F. No. E. "Mary," I called out through the doorway "come see." But Mary didn't answer. Looking back at the floor again, I saw an A had appeared next to the first two letters. How had it happened so quickly when the other letters had taken so long?

That description might be nothing like what you want, but it gives context to the letters. And that's what your description needs. If you're describing letters being scratched out on the floor, you need to actually describe the process of them being scratched out, and reactions as it occurs.

If it's a person scratching out the letters in front of your POV character, that will be important too. Describing the actual formation of the letters, what it's in answer to, what they hope the letters might form, all that, it's part of this description and the reaction to it.

If you're building suspense, just get inside the head of the person seeing the letters happen, what their reaction is, what they believe that the letters might spell out as @DPT says.


The convention is to represent text written on objects in italics:

Come quickly, the note read.

The graffiti said: ACAB.

John read that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution says that: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...

Note that in fiction you do not cite written text in quotations marks! Quotation marks always signify spoken language:

Peter quoted the First Amendment to John smugly: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof!"

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