Monday, March 25, 2019

Tips for Writing Effective Description

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

Description helps our readers see the scene, we all know that. But there are varying ways to describe a scene. 

Here are a few considerations when writing description. 

  • Perspective 

Giving all the details of a room is fine ifit’s absolutely necessary. A woman would notice textures and colors of the d├ęcor. A man, who is not a detective, would see a sofa, chairs and tables. Keep the description in the POV character’s perspective.

In When the Bough Breaks, one character is an investigative reporter. A man in this profession logs details in his memory. It’s part of his training and what makes him good at his job. But does every reader know that? No. So I chronicle this part his personality and profession in the beginning of the story in an unobtrusive manner, then when he focuses on details other men would never see, it feels right to the reader. 
  •  Genre

Historical fiction tends to have more detailed description of rooms or places. Readers of this genre expect it and want it. Since it’s not the era they live in, they need more description to truly feel the environment. 

In a mystery or suspense, a detective would notice all means of egress as well as places a suspect could hide. They would remember a nick in the wooden arm on a Victorian sofa in the antique shoppe. Describing that in an earlier scene makes sense. Or show the detective running her hand over the sofa’s arm as she wanders around. Then later, let her reveal her clue. Either way, this description is necessary
  • Audience

Whether you write for teens, young adults, or senior citizens, consider your audience. Today’s young people prefer sound bites. Description for them is fast and to the point. While someone over sixty is used to a leisurely read, meandering through description and enjoying the experience.


Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet tea.She's anovelist and playwright and directs a Community Theatre group.She believes chocolate and coffee are two of the four major food groups and resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler who thinks he’s a teddy bear. You can find Ane at or her Amazon author page.


  1. Great tips, Ane. I struggle with description so this post is greatly appreciated.

  2. Excellent article! Our creative writing teachers tell us to describe our settings in detail, but they often forget to remind us that not all of this needs to go into the version readers will see!