I love the book Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan (Writers Digest, 1999). She writes about the power of description, calling it one of the 3 parts of a story along with exposition and narration. Here are a few of her ideas.
“Description is an attempt to present as directly as possible the qualities of a person, place or object.” She goes on to suggest that we work to evoke a visual or other sense as much as we actually share it. She believes impressions of our senses have power.
“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a scent is worth a million. If this were one of those scratch-and-sniff books, you could slide your fingernail across the page and smell the restaurant bread I’ve just slathered with rosemary butter.” McClanahan believes s since it is our most primitive sense. It’s difficult to write about so most of us resort to describing how smell makes us feel. (Interesting observation!)
“What really matters is the big picture, the fictional dream that lingers after the details have vanished. The big picture is formed not only by our descriptions of characters, settings and events but also by forces that reside above and below our story’s structure- atmosphere,, mood, feeling, motif, theme, form, structure and tone…To understand how these intangible elements contribute to the big picture we must go beyond the surface of the story, beyond even the most concrete, significant and effective descriptions of our subjects.”
Happy Word Painting!