How to write concise and direct descriptions
Descriptions are only as good as the words that go into them. I’ve had it pointed out to me recently that I tend to write in triplets of adjectives, which I do because I enjoy the sound of it so much:
“Her hair, glossy and glassy and rosy, blew into the farthest sea.”
It has a poetic ring to it, right?
But using three adjectives at once can often be redundant, and there are many times when two, or even one good adjective, are enough to convey a vivid image. All three ways have their place!
Here are some examples:
Using words that are spot-on
Sometimes one adjective is enough to convey the full idea of a scene; for example, in this sentence,
“Her hair was stiff, dry, and coarse, and hung loose about her face,”
the wording is rather clunky.
With just one word, we can convey the idea much better:
“Her hair hung loose, like straw, about her face.”
Relating unrelated and paradoxical ideas
Sometimes two adjectives are necessary because no one word conveys the full idea. But when pairing two words, make sure neither of them mean the same thing. Sometimes, one word should even mean the opposite of another:
“Her supple straw hair hung loose about her face.”
The idea of stiff hair is conveyed, but with the slight variation that it is bendable, which straw is not.
“Her raven straw hair hung loose about her face.”
Straw carries the connotation that her hair is blond, and even though none of the sentences have specified, that’s probably what you were imagining, right? The word ‘raven’ is necessary to change our perception of the coarse hair.
Introducing a nice, easy, rythmic flow into your writing
Use three adjectives only for a rhythmic sound when the moment begs to be dwelt upon; use alliteration when possible, either at the beginning of the word, or in the ending sounds
“Her stiff, straight, straw-like hair strayed like the receding stream of the sea.”
“Her streaming, weaving, receding hair reminded me of the tide of the sea.”
It’s important, most of all, to stay true to the feel of the moment in the story. Three adjectives slow down the action, introducing a slower, more reflective, more contemplative pace. Two adjectives should only be used for comparison – use two different but powerful words to connect two ideas that would not normally be used together. And when using one adjective, be sure to milk it to its fullest advantage, utilizing the most effective description for the situation.
Is this helpful? Are you interested in more articles like this with reflections on writing?