As a visual learner who likes to paint, I need to be able to see something to understand it. If you, as a writer, can’t show me exactly what’s going on, I’m going to get lost. Here’s how to write like there’s a movie playing in your reader’s head.
1.Be specific with your colors
I’m not saying you need to be able to recognize 10 different shades of black, but at least try to use specific color names.
Look at this square. These are 9 different shades of yellow. Some are more brown, others creamy, and the middle is truly Tweety bird yellow. If you want your readers to see the same bird you do, you need to take into account how much one color can vary in appearance.
Let’s do an example: “The yellow bird flew into the tree.”
That’s lame. And ambiguous.
If we switch this to, “The honey colored bird flew into the tree, his feathers gleaming like a jar of the golden substance held to the sun.” You probably have a much more specific image of the bird.
2. Look up reference images
Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is supposed to be about writing. Why do I need a reference?
But let’s say you want to write about a Caribbean beach when you’ve never been to one.
Even if you’ve been to a beach before, it won’t be the same as one in the Caribbean. Just like with drawing, don’t write what you think you know. Look up pictures that might match your setting. Writing fantasy or science fiction? Still do it! Just because your swamp now has alien flora and fauna or dragons doesn’t mean this exercise won’t help.
This can help when describing creatures as well. For example, animals that live in swamps tend to be aquatic or semi-aquatic. They’re mostly amphibians and reptiles as well. If you take a bunch of swampy characteristics, you can mash them all together into the terrifying beast that inhabits your fantasy swamp.
3. Take a good feel
If you want to write about a tactile experience, it’s helpful to have experienced it. Upon trial, you might find that “satin” is a better way to describe a blanket than “velvet” in your story. If you’re writing about an animal, go out and pet some dogs so you can feel the difference between the coat of a Poodle and that of a Xoloitzcuintli (only dog breed to start with the letter X!). Touching lots of different things will build up your internal reference.
4. Read, read, read
The best way to learn how to describe things is to read great descriptions. Read books in and out of your favorite genre that describe people, places, and things in great detail. This doesn’t mean you have to read The Lord of the Rings (which has such long descriptions you’ll want to gouge your eyeballs out) but learning new adjectives and adverbs will only make your descriptions stronger.
Hope some of these tips help!