There are nearly as many ways to describe a scene or character as there are stars in the night sky. Sometimes a quick description with additional hints sprinkled through the following action and dialogue works well. Other times a more thorough description, with metaphor and simile, might work better. And for some things, a description is barely even necessary, it might be enough to simply hint through clever placement of objects in a scene.
It’s the last option I’ll be talking about here. Indirectly describing a scene, location, or character is a great way to give your reader a good idea of what’s what without needing to overtly tell them. In other words, this is a form of the old ‘show, don’t tell’ technique. First, let’s take a quick example from one of my own works, Starlight Blues:
Meg moved across to the kitchenette and stared at the cooker. Then at the sink. A variety of pots and pans, plus several plates and a number of pieces of cutlery lounged there, awaiting her attention. She turned to the centre of the room where her sofa and TV stood. T-shirts, random pairs of pants, and various jeans and trousers lay strewn across her sofa.
This simple paragraph of description gives the reader some hints as to the sort of girl Meg is. Potentially a little lazy; not necessarily true, but a reasonable assumption for now. Untidy and disorganised; plainly accurate based on observation, but could also indicate she simply hasn’t had time to tidy. Not hugely interested in cleaning when she has other things to be doing; it’s previously been shown that she’s an art student at a university, and artists are often portrayed as untidy, so this is again an okay assumption. (more…)