How does one get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!
This is an old saw, but still an accurate one. All writing is practice, really – whether it’s developing your own voice, or beefing up content you don’t quite feel confident in, like, say, descriptive passages so the reader can get a sense of where they (and the characters) are.
This practice comes with a caution, as most things do. Don’t fall into the trap of going overboard on descriptions, for instance. Yes, there is valuable practice in looking around you and describing the entire setting as well as you can, but remember that doing an info dump of every single thing in a room is not fun reading. Anyone who has had to read Moby Dick, for instance, may hold the same view I do, that Melville did a ton of info dumping in that book – even now, thinking about it, I can feel my eyes glazing over.
So, you ask, what should we do, and how will we know when enough is enough? It’s simple….but not easy.
The ideal kind of description gives the reader a sort of framework to build on, their imaginations fueling the scene by virtue of what you have not mentioned. For example, if you have someone pulling into the driveway of a home that belongs to a billionaire, describing every single item about the house will be tedious. Talking about the meticulously pruned trees and landscaping, the inability to see where the mansion ends when it is viewed from the side by someone driving in, the columns lining the front of it, the heavy wooden door with a quaint knocker as if any sound made by it could possibly be heard through its thickness, and the way the character feels tiny against the sheer size of the house provides enough that the reader can see in their head the mansion they have dreamed up to go on the skeleton you’ve given.
This is not to say you should always just go with a completely bare-bones type of description. “The mansion had two stories.” is not enough to allow the reader to join you in the world you’re creating. That is your goal: to have them immerse themselves in your world to the extent they do much of the heavy lifting to fill in the empty spaces while you concentrate on the heart of the story itself.
Until next time, peeps: be well. And get some writing done.