Writing Tips & Help: Painting a Picture

One of the things that I see sometimes when reading stories written from people just starting out, is a failure to paint a picture of the background. What I mean by that, is they are often so focused on presenting their character or how their character operates, that they forget to include details that would give the reader an idea of what things look like. The reader is then left to use their imagination to picture the surroundings or to wonder and become confused later down the road if the writer does add detail.

For instance, if I have a character who is currently in a busy crowded theme park area and they are trying to walk around, the writer might spend a brief sentence to give that background, but neglect adding in other details later of any kind.

Arriving at the theme park, the two detectives noted how crowded it was. They nearly lost each other in the chaos, but Scott spotted Jane behind him and they finally regrouped with each other at the Emporium gift shop.

A sentence like this might be the very extent of the detail given and the writing might continue without ever mentioning it again. That doesn’t mean that the same details should be rehashed or beaten to death or thrown into one giant paragraph of description. Instead, try to space out details and include your character’s movements in the writing.

Arriving at the theme park, the two detectives noted how crowded it was the minute that they were through the turnstiles. After shuffling and worming past several stopped families and nearly tripping right over a stroller that was pushed recklessly into his path, Scott went to turn to speak with Jane, only to realize that she was no longer directly behind him as expected. Instead, a rather plump burly man was standing uncomfortably close to the dark haired gentleman with his unfurled map held closely up to his own face. Scooting backward, Scott managed to find a landmark: a gift shop. Standing just outside of the door, stretching his neck this way and that, he finally spotted his partner in the crowd and began to wave. 

I notice that this happens a lot with fanfiction writing because the writer assumes that the reader already is familiar with the decor and backgrounds and thus skips straight over it though I’ve even noticed this in published works. Adding just a tad more detail to your story can help jazz it up and give realism to it, planting your characters more firmly into the world around them.

Did you find this helpful? What do you struggle with when it comes to writing?


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