3 Tips for Being Intentional with Setting & Description

3d interior render of empty white room with big windowAs I’ve said before, I’m not naturally good at description in my writing. It’s an area of weakness of mine, but since I’ve identified it as such, I can make intentional efforts to supercede that weakness.

1. I try to choose a location– or a location within a location– that lends itself to sensory detail. Instead of setting the scene in a regular old room, why not on the roof? Or in a church belltower? An abandoned greenhouse? A former-insane-asylum-turned-boarding-school? (My friends were creeped out by that one and steered me away from it. Ha!)

Figure one. I really believe this place is going to find its way into one of my stories one day.


2. I use photos, lots of photos, for reference. The internet is my friend: Pinterest, Tumblr, Google Images, We Heart It. I actually think people would be shocked to learn how much time I spend looking for images– but the pictures help me find the words.

Figure two. I’d have a hard time describing such a scene as below without the image.


3. I write the senses at the top of a document and go scene by scene, asking what the characters could see, hear, taste, smell, or touch in that particular scene. This sensory document for Truest ended up to be fourteen pages. Then, back through the manuscript to graft the details in so that readers don’t see the seams.

Figure three. The red means that I ended up using the detail.


Your turn, writers: what are your best tools for setting and description? Does it come naturally to you, or do you have to “fight for it” the way I do?