Last week, our examples described a person, and we saw that weaving action into a description makes it a part of the story instead of stopping the forward motion of the plot to look at the person.
We can do the same with things as well as people. Here are two more examples to show what a difference it makes when action is used to describe something.
EXAMPLE 1 – The old bridge looked like it was about to tumble into the river raging below.
EXAMPLE 2 – The old bridge creaked as the wind blew it back and forth over the raging river below. Planks, darkened by years of weathering, hung from the underside.
Quite a different feel to the two examples, don’t you think?
Description 1 provides enough words that a reader can probably imagine what the bridge looks like, although in a vague sort of way.
Description 2 paints a much more specific picture with its words. Not only that, but the action adds mood and invites the readers to add involve other senses. The details build up the setting enough that the readers can feel it around them, almost as if they are experiencing it in the scene with the characters.
It comes down to telling vs. showing.
Let the readers see the bridge and come to the conclusion themselves that it was old and about ready to tumble into the river below rather than telling them. The question to ask yourself when you describe something is “What do I see in my mind’s eye?” Then show that to the readers. Don’t just tell the reader that the field is green, show them that new shoots sprouted proud and tall in lines through the moist, dark soil. Don’t just tell the reader that the ocean stretched out before the yacht, show them that green-blue water filled the horizon as far as the character could see, with the serenity of glass-like surface broken only but the white froth churned up by the bow of the yacht as it sped through the waters.
When you write descriptions like this into your story, you invite readers to step inside your book so it becomes more than just a good story, it becomes an experience.