A couple of weeks ago, I hosted my first webinar, on writing vivid description. I wanted to share an example from that webinar with those of you who weren’t there.
I try not to teach from negative example, but this one sentence manages to violate all four of my guidelines for good description, so I thought you would find it instructive. Allow me to mention that this sentence was written by a person who actually writes quite well. We all have our slip-ups; and as you are about to see, this sentence is only a slip-up, not a spectacularly bad piece of writing. Here it is:
Humble little town homes sat situated above unique cafes on these quaint roads, right where renowned scholars and thinkers and poets had once walked.
See? This isn’t flagrant. It’s the kind of writing you see all the time, and under normal circumstances you might pass right by it and not think about it one way or another. And that’s part of the problem—the reader wouldn’t think about this description one way or another, or envision anything either.
Remember, when you write, you are inviting a reader into a scene. Good description offers experience to the reader in a way that approximates the way experience comes to us in the world God made—through the senses.