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Famous Writers On Descriptive Language

Famous Writers On Descriptive Language

You’ve probably heard of the concept “show, don’t tell.” This concept demands the use of descriptive language in writing. Instead of telling your readers what happened, show them by painting the scene in such a way that they feel as though they’re inside it.

Below are just a few quotes from famous authors about using descriptive language in writing.




“If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!” –Fred East


“Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, ‘Please, will you do my job for me?’” —C.S. Lewis


“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.” –Orson Scott Card


While “show, don’t tell” is a strongly supported piece of writing advice—you might even say it’s a writing rule—it still comes with a grain of salt. Once you know the “rules” of writing, you can break them in ways that make your writing more personal or stylistic. Writing is an art that you get to practice and make your own.