Just Do It Better: Describing Things

Is this a new series? Maybe. Did I just use a Shia Labeouf meme? Definitely. Does anyone actually care about Shia Labeouf? I don’t know. Is the “Just Do It” meme a thing of my childhood? Absolutely. Is it an outdated relic of the past? Debatable. Am I once again drawing out this blog post with an overblown one-paragraph opening? Well yeah, but you’re too late! I’ve already got away with it!


Anyway, if you’re one-tenth as contentious as I am about my writing, you worry all the time about whether or not you’re describing things properly. “Oh no! Am I using too many words to describe a very simple thing? What will everyone else think? Am I using too many analogies? Is the reader not getting the picture well enough???”

Well…imma keep it short and sweet with you. (hence the brevity of this article)

It doesn’t matter how hard you write; people are going to interpret your descriptions in different lights. You can literally be Brandon Sanderson, describe Kaladin in meticulous detail, and then have three goofy artist fans come up with three very different pieces of fanart:

(NGL, they’re all pretty cool, but I just wanted to illustrate a point)

So first of all, no one’s gonna hit the nail on the head completely. You need to allow for a little bit of ambiguity when it comes to describing things. Second, I want to draw your attention to the key similarities between the three pictures: each of the Kaladins has shoulder-length (or longer) hair, two have spears, the same two have a blue bridgeman’s uniform, and all three feature a floating blue sprite.

Of course, any Stormlight fan knows that these medium-sized details are perfectly indicative of Kaladin from their beloved series (or moody emo Peter Pan). Giving the reader a few details to latch on to is key when you want to give them a general sense of what someone/thing looks like.

Don’t go too heavy on the details. Instead, choose words that spark the reader’s imagination, and let the concrete details “anchor” your reader’s imagination to what you want them to think about. So A, know that your descriptions will never be impeccable, B, use words that incite imagination, and C, throw in a few details that you know the reader will be able to remember.

Just do better.

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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