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  • Tari Faris - Writer

What Do You Mean I Need More Description?

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

by Tari Faris, @FarisTari

Description. Storyworld. Show, don’t tell. Show the emotion. No matter how you say it – it is my least favorite part of writing.


Shocking? I mean, don’t writers just love to write paragraph after paragraph of rich description that pulls the reader into that world?


Not this girl.  I love to plot and I love to write dialogue.


But just like a person who loves description and struggles with dialogue doesn’t get a free pass to have boring dialogue – I don’t get a free pass on weak description.




When I was first told that I needed to add more description, I figured it was an easy fix. I took my story and dropped in paragraphs describing where they were, what they were wearing, and every facial expression they could possibly make. It was . . . awful.

That type of description didn’t make the story stronger – it just made it longer.

Back to the drawing board.

So, I took classes from My Book Therapy on how to F.O.C.U.S. a scene, how to use deep POV, and how to show the emotion of the scene rather than telling it. I went back to my manuscript and went to work. It was . . . better.

But the number one thing I heard in critiques again and again was that I needed to work on my—you guessed it—description.

Then the other day when I was talking to someone, a piecefinally came together for me.  I needed to use my action tags more effectively. I need to use them to show the reader the character’s emotion through action of WHAT they were doing rather than HOW they were talking.

Let’s walk through what I mean.

When you first start to write you are tempted to just use dialogue with dialogue tags.

Here is an example from my WIP just stripped to dialogue and tags.

Hannah (heroine) is trying to talk Luke(hero) into being a part of a bachelor auction/fundraiser while he is fixing a tree house.

“What do you mean you aren’t doing the auction?” Hannah asked.

“It isn’t complicated, Hannah. You asked us to consider it and I considered it. The answer is no,” Luke said. “Why?” She asked. Luke shrugged. “That isn’t good enough,” she said. “Why does it matter, Hannah? You’ve plenty of guys signed up. At least twenty or so. I even saw Ted and Derek signed up. Why do you care if I do?” “You’re a big part of this town.” “Not really.” “You are whether you want to believe it or not, and this town looks up to you. We need the money and you’re one of the . . . best looking guys in town,” she said.

Okay  - this is flat.

Let’s try it again but this time let’s trade out the he said/she said for some action tags.

She swallowed against her dry throat. “What do you mean you aren’t doing the auction?” “It isn’t complicated, Hannah. You asked us to consider it and I considered it. The answer is no.” Not even a hint of a smile crossed his face. “Why?” Her brow wrinkled. Luke shrugged but didn’t answer. Hannah clenched her fist. “That isn’t good enough.” His dark gaze narrowed on her. “Why does it matter, Hannah? You’ve got plenty of guys signed up. At least twenty or so. I even saw Ted and Derek signed up.” His voice rose a bit, reverberating in the small space. “Why do you care if I do?” Her gut twisted. Why did she care? “You’re a big part of this town.” “Not really.” She focused on him. “You are whether you want to believe it or not, and this town looks up to you. We need the money and you’re one of the . . . best looking guys in town.” She turned away. Her tone had been casual enough, but if he saw her flushed face he might see right through her.

Better, often new writers stop here. I know I used to. But what if we had them interact more with their space to really convey the unsaid emotions rather than just body movement?

Hannah lifted her chin and held out the sign-up form.“What do you mean you aren’t doing the auction?” “It isn’t complicated, Hannah. You asked us to consider it and I considered it. The answer is no.” He grabbed a nail from a box, set it in position, and drove it in with three solid hits. When he reached for another nail, she grabbed the box and shut it. “Why?” Luke stared at the box a moment then shrugged, sat back and reached for his Coke, drawing a large gulp from the can. Hannah slammed the box back on the floor, the ring of shifting nails echoed in the confined space. “That isn’t good enough.” His dark gaze locked on her a moment then shifted to the can he rolled back and forth in his hands. “Why does it matter, Hannah? You’ve plenty of guys signed up. At least twenty or so. I even saw Ted and Derek had signed up.” He downed the rest of the soda and crushed the can between his hands. “Why do you care if I do?” Why did she care? Her fingers picked at the weathered wood floor. “You’re a big part of this town.” It was more than that but she just couldn’t go there right now. He let out a humorless laugh and reached for his hammer again. “Not really.” “You are whether you want to believe it or not, and this town looks up to you. We need the money and you’re one of the . . . best looking guys in town.” She turned away. She’d kept her tone casual enough, but one look at her flushed face and he’d see right through her.

Okay – So it still needs some polishing but do you see how adding strong action tags really pulls us into the scene and gives us a sense of emotion without naming it or describing how they said it.

Try it with one of your scenes and see if you think it makes a difference.

I’ll be back next month to talk about description snapshots.


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© 2018 by Tari Faris