An artist paints what they see then add their soul to the work to give it the inspired look.
Writers scratch out a meager earning, mangling words into lines of structure implanting wondrous images into our minds. Exactly how is this done?
It is a red rose.
It is a red-pink rose.
It is a dark-red, blushed in pink rose.
It is a deep red rose, blushed in light pink with dew on it.
It is a deep red rose, blushed in palest pink with morning dew still kissing the delicate petals.
With each of the above lines, the description was just a little more detailed to expound on the rose's beauty. A second line, perhaps such as —
An unfamiliar citrus-like scent filled the air.
— would add even more details. Not only do you see the rose in all its glory but now, you can almost smell it, too.
Once more, look at those lines above. You can see the expertise of the author with each line. The first line is that of a newbie writer who relegates the rose to just existing. If the author wants you to see the rose, that would be the final example which details it so you, the reader, truly sees what he wants you to see.
Another example, two men fight with swords:
Balin jumped forward with his sword drawn, slashing the air before his opponent, the evil dwarf, Hardish. Their swords clanged in the duel until Balin stabbed Hardish.
Balen jumped forward, his sword drawn, ready to parry the assault of his oncoming opponent, Hardish. The evil dwarf's sword met his sword in a long clash and Balin felt the solid ring of the metal not only in his fingers and hand, but also up into his arm. Balin realized his opponent's strength was stronger than he expected. The vibration of the Hardish's sword sliding down his blade warned him of a possible ending move that he prepared for. Without realizing, Balin flicked his sword-wrist and Hardish's sword snapped from his hand. Balin plunged his sword into Hardish's chest.
Don't cheat your reader. Let them enjoy the moment, the action, the emotion of the tale. If you've never fought with a sword, take the time to learn how to handle one. Find an expert in the field and if you must, pay for an hour's lesson. You needn't become an expert, just knowledgeable of the action. The same holds true for horseback riding, car racing, and other activities.
As your hero races through a jungle, are those just weeds and bushes or do they have thorns and cut? Is the growth trimmed for easy movement or does one need to cut a path?
They say - Stop and smell the roses. Do it.
You are the author, the writer. Learn to really take a look at what you are writing. Tell the reader what they need to know, let them savor the moment. You needn't describe everything to the nth degree but if a person stops to notice a rose, make it memorable for the reader.
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~ COMMENTS ~
Details are so important to engage the reader and allow them to live within the scene you're creating. Great tip, Bob!
Of course, it could be just a red rose. Danny slipped onto the park bench the blonde bombshell had just vacated, leaving a folded newspaper behind.The slightly spicy scent of her perfumes still lingered. Casually he lifted the fold and his heart slammed his chest. Inside was a red rose.
Be careful, though, not to overdo it. I've blogged about this, too. It's one thing to provide enough description to put the reader into the situation, but another to bog down the story with needless detail. For example, I recently read a book that described the hero, the fearless detective, screeching to a stop in a tiny parking space, throwing the car door open, stepping onto the street, running around his car, onto the curb and across the sidewalk, turning the doorknob on the dive bar, pulling the door open ... see what I mean?
Some details bring the scene to life, others drown the reader in needless detail.
Readers are smart. They know how to get out of a car.
Elyse: Thanks and I agree but see below. Onisha: Again, a great example where simplicity is the key. Lisa: Thanks. Scott: Wow. I also agree with you wholeheartedly. Perhaps I should have expounded that not every sentence has to be so well defined. I fully understand that most of us know how to get out of a car and open a door and that it very well could muddy the story. Your point is well taken. Thanks for adding that tidbit to my tip.