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how to describe credible scenes

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By Johannes Helmold

So, the previous blog was dedicated to making your scenes and decorations look real, even if you write about some distant planet’s landscapes, or about places no human being has ever seen. Today, I am going to give you some more hints on this topic.

Don’t overuse descriptions, epithets, and be careful with visual content. One of my favorite writers of my youth—H.P. Lovecraft—was known to overuse epithets when he had not yet developed his unique style. In practice, sentences overburdened with descriptions are boring and complicated. See the following example—does it look nice?

e.g. The walls of the fortress were all covered with cracks, holes, and cavities, left from the long forgotten wars and sieges; the main tower was incredibly wide in diameter, much wider than any castle had ever been, and its dim grey stone, all soaked with rain and moss, and seemed to be consuming even the smallest glimpse of light—in the flashes of fierce lightnings that lit everything, nearby the crude old tower remained oppressively dark and hideous.

Perhaps the most important trick is to connect the scenery to the emotional condition of your characters (if there are any in the scene you are writing). This is a good way to create a link between the environment, and the inner condition and thoughts of your characters. In fact, this is where your scenery affects your readers the most. Otherwise, you are at risk that the scenery description (no matter how good it is) will be kind of detached from the rest of the story.

e.g. As they walked under the shade of the fortress, John suddenly felt a desire to shrink, to become small and inconspicuous; the gigantic tower over his head made him think of an irresistible doom of a grim fate that destroys your precarious life and leaves you solely deprived, far beyond the innate balance of the world.

Sounds rather convincing, doesn’t it?

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