As a fiction writer, you know full well that creating a captivating story requires a combination of plot, character development, and setting.

However, the way you describe your characters, settings, and events is just as crucial to the success of your story. That’s where descriptive writing techniques come in.

Descriptive writing is an essential component of fiction writing. It’s what allows you to create a sense of atmosphere and tone, and to bring your characters and settings to life for your readers.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into descriptive writing, exploring various techniques and providing examples to help you master this great art.

Let’s get started!

What Is Descriptive Writing?

The purpose of descriptive writing is to create a vivid mental image in your reader’s mind. When done effectively, it can transport the reader to another place and time, and help them experience the story in a more profound way.

Your goal with this technique is to create a sensory experience for your readers by using detailed descriptions of people, places, objects, and events, making them feel as if they were there themselves, seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and even tasting what is being described.

In fact, descriptive writing is so effective that it can be found in many forms of literature, from poetry and fiction to non-fiction and journalism. It’s a powerful tool that can add depth, meaning, and emotion to any piece of writing.

10 Descriptive Writing Techniques

Writing description

Although there are many different techniques that writers can use to create effective descriptive writing, below you’ll find ten of the most popular ones:

1. Personification

Personification is the act of giving human qualities to nonhuman objects. For example, “The wind whispered through the trees,” personifies the wind by giving it the ability to whisper like only a person could.

2. Oxymoron

An oxymoron is a phrase that combines two contradictory terms, such as “jumbo shrimp” or “bittersweet.” Using oxymorons in descriptive writing can create a sense of tension or conflict.

3. Metaphors

A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two unlike things, for example “her laughter was music to my ears,” implying that her laughter was as pleasant and enjoyable to listen to as a music performance could.

Metaphors are often used to convey complex or obscure concepts and ideas in a way that’s easy for readers to relate to.

4. Similes

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things using “like” or “as.” For example, “her hair was as black as midnight.” Similes are a useful way to create visual descriptions that are easier for readers to connect to emotionally.

5. Alliterations

An alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of multiple words in a sentence, such as “the wild winds whisked through the willows.” Alliterations can be used to create a sense of literary rhythm or to emphasize certain words or phrases.

6. Hyperbole

Start descriptive writing with your own writing using the five senses to help the reader visualize descriptive details

Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that’s not meant to be taken literally, such as “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Using hyperbole in descriptive writing can create a sense of drama or humor.

7. Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a descriptive literary device that hints at future events in a story. For example, a description of a character’s ominous-looking knife might foreshadow a violent confrontation later in the story.

8. Onomatopoeia

An onomatopoeia involves the use of words that imitate the sounds they represent.

They’re a powerful tool that can make your writing more vivid and engaging, allowing your readers to hear the sounds of your story as they read. Some examples of onomatopoeic words include “buzz,” “hiss,” “crackle,” and “murmur.”

9. Sensory Writing

Sensory writing is the use of vivid and descriptive language to engage your reader’s senses and create a more immersive reading experience. Here are some examples:

Visual: “The sun rose over the mountains, casting a warm glow across the valley.”

Auditory: “The leaves rustled in the wind, creating a gentle whisper that filled the air.

Olfactory: “The smell of freshly baked bread wafted through the air, making her mouth water.”

Gustatory: “The tartness of the lemons made her shiver in discomfort.”

Tactile: “The soft fur of the kitten felt like silk against my skin as I stroked its back.”

10. Emotive Language

Emotive language is the use of descriptive words and phrases that evoke an emotional response with your readers. Here are some examples:

Fear: “The shadowy figure lurking in the corner sent a chill down her spine.”

Happiness: “The warm glow of the sun on her face filled her with joy and contentment.”

Anger: “A fiery rage burned within him as he confronted his sworn enemy for the first time.”

What Should Be Avoided In Descriptive Writing?

Teaching students descriptive essays with as few words as possible

While the above techniques will help you develop your descriptive writing muscle, there are some common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid, such as:

Clichés: Avoid overused expressions and phrases like “cute as a puppy” or “calm before the storm.” Clichés lack originality and creativity and can make your writing seem dull and unremarkable.

Purple prose: This refers to writing in a way that’s excessively ornate, flowery, or otherwise over-the-top.

While descriptive writing should be vivid, it’s important to strike a balance and avoid using too many extravagant words or complex sentence structures that distract readers from your message.

Repetition: While repetition can be an effective tool when used intentionally, overusing the same words or phrases, especially in close proximity, can feel monotonous and tedious to readers.

Vary your language and sentence structures to keep your writing fresh and engaging through the use of synonyms and other repetition-avoidance techniques.

Excessive adjectives and adverbs: Using too many adjectives and adverbs can make your descriptive writing cluttered and slow-paced.

Instead, focus on using strong nouns and verbs to convey your message.

Lack of specificity: Descriptive writing should be specific and detailed, painting a vivid picture for the reader. Avoid using vague or generic language that doesn’t convey a clear image.

Final Thoughts

Mastering descriptive writing is an essential skill if you want to create stories that are captivating and immersive for your readers.

By using a combination of techniques such as personification, metaphor, alliteration, and sensory writing, you’ll be able to transport your readers to another time and place, allowing them to experience your story in a much more meaningful way.

Practice and hone your descriptive writing skills and you’ll be able to create rich and vivid narratives that’ll keep your readers coming back for more!


Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending InnocenceThe Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas. Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.

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