Writing Tip #31: Descriptive Writing Can Include Action
Descriptive writing can include action. Just because description and narration are two different modes of writing doesn’t mean description can’t include action. In fact, good description normally does. The subject of your description can be, and often should be, in motion. If you are describing a character, she need not be sitting for a portrait. Show her at work or play, rocking a baby, catching a Frisbee, leaping from a trapeze. How she walks and talks is as important as the color of her hair or eyes. We often talk of description as “painting a picture with words,” but that can give the impression that the subject must be static. Maybe “capturing a video with words” is a better metaphor.
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Excellent tip. I believe that the late Dwight V. Swain suggested that passages of descriptive narrative should culminate with an “image in motion,” which is basically the same advice. I have always found that it serves to focus the reader’s mind, viscerally, on an image thus enabling all the more the willing suspension of disbelief.