High-Octane Descriptions



We all have childhood and adult moments that contain rich and vivid backdrops. Memories, both remarkable, and what we may deem as ordinary, yet both are filled with ambience we can write about if we take a hard look. Embellishing descriptive scenes and character appearance by drawing from real-life experiences is a fab way to adorn your prose and dialogue with authentic and vibrant depiction, as long as it’s not overdone.



If your teen character is attending their first concert, think back to the first band or solo artist you had the pleasure to rock out to. Remember the excitement, the crowd, the cheering, dancing in the aisle, singing so loudly to your favorite songs you woke up with laryngitis. Pluck from your memory anything that stands out from the atmosphere and surroundings then drop them into your passages. Did the unmistakable scent of marijuana permeate the air? Did a fist-fight break out in the arena? Was there a beachball bouncing over the audience? Were your ears aching from the loud vibration of music? In my day, fans lit lighters and held them aloft to show appreciation or request an encore. Today many use their cell phones to achieve the same vibe. Adding some specific details enhances your narrative.



Is your protagonist about to deliver her first baby? Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Conjure the scene in your mind. It’s comprised of a wealth of powerful particulars to throw into your scene especially if you've experienced it first-hand. Describe the pain, the equipment, the waiting and anticipation, a standout nurse or a nasty one. Add sensory details, such as hospital smells, the dinging of machines, the noise in the corridor outside your room, the color of walls, nursing uniforms, or your doctor's hair. Was your hubby or significant other present? How did they deal with the experience? Remember the orders to push and breathe. Did you deliver naturally, have an epidural, or C-section? Attach your deepest feelings of euphoria to your protagonist to help readers understand the rush of love associated with the moment the nurse placed your newborn on your chest to nurse for the first time. Or perhaps confer feelings of terror instead. Any of the delivery room experiences mentioned above lend authenticity to your story.



Portraying even mundane settings such as a teen’s bedroom, a classroom, a restaurant, or public space like a library, pool, or park are easily given a superior boost by sprinkling in realistic elements borrowed from actual experience. Think about the most interesting and distinguished parts of your memories as you write.



Dreams are magical whether pleasant or nightmarish. They hold a plethora of imaginative scenes writers can pilfer at will to augment descriptive detail. Well, that’s if we can remember our dreams. I urge writers to jot down their dreams, even if the only things remembered are flashes of environment or color. Stitching together different dreams or parts of various dreams is a bitching strategy to enrich a narrative.


Personally, I’ve incorporated this method into several books. One of my fantasy novels is based on my dreams as a child. I intensified the story, plot, and characters by inserting the niceties and the darkest most frightening aspects of those dreams. I also recalled the physical symptoms associated with the nightmares – my heart beating wildly, trembling from head to toes, goosebumps, sore throat from screaming, and sweating profusely. I sunk further into the dream memories by dredging up feelings of betrayal and terror as those familiar to me twisted into demons with opal eyes. I also summoned the heartwarming sense of enticing love from my most satisfying dreams.



Steal the best and most chilling parts of your dreams and memories to supplement your passages, settings, characters, plot, and dialogue.



Hi. I'm Liz Ambrico, freelance proofreader and aspiring author. I too am querying agents, editors, and publishers in hopes of becoming a published author.

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I co-founded and managed a successful author and writer group on Long Island for five years. During events with publishers and authors I learned what matters, what agents are looking for, and the benefits and pitfalls of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

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