Have you ever tried to find just the right words to describe something? Well, of course you have, duh. What writer hasn’t? But often the more humdrum an object is, the more difficult it is to describe in a compelling way. Talking about a sunset, or a dragon, or the most perfect man/woman/car/bacon double cheeseburger on earth means you have a plethora of colorful adjectives at your disposal – literally and figuratively.
But try to describe that perfect… office building, or convey the subtle nuances of … a wooden bench, or that most perfect… potato. Hmmm.
In an early piece of writing I had a house. It played a lot into the emotional state of the characters, and was almost a character in and of itself, so its appearance was important. I knew it should be large, white, black shutters and door. Wraparound front porch with a flight of steps. That was all in my mind, but I had trouble truly SEEING it. So I Googled it.
I didn’t find the right house straight off – the house that not only matched my pre-conceived notion, but one in which I could picture my characters living. But I kept looking, and after a thorough search there it was: the perfect image. I printed out that picture and kept it handy as I was writing, and referencing it helped bring my story to life even more vividly than it had already been in my head.
Pictures also provide details you might not have thought about. I came across a picture of a lower-middle-class street, and in it the telephone poles were all just slightly tilted one way or the other. That’s something I never would’ve thought about, but it leant a quirky detail to my description.
The important thing is not to compromise your vision. Find a picture that’s what you want. (You’ll know when you do.) The picture should help you see more clearly what’s already in your head, and hopefully it’ll expand your ideas as well. Because a picture might be worth a thousand words, but you don’t need a thousand words if you choose just a few of the right ones.
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