Creative Writing Writing 101 6 min2023-06-15 00:00

Adding Details to Writing: How to Do It Effectively

adding details to writing

You want to create rich, engaging sentences full of detail and description, but you’re not sure how to do it?

Adding details to your writing can be a daunting task if you’re not familiar with the process used by best-selling authors. Luckily, the steps are easy to follow, and you can use them straight away to improve your writing instantly.

Whether you’re a writer, a student, or a teacher, adding detail to your writing is the lesson everyone should learn at some point.

In this article, we’ll explain the golden rule of writing detailed sentences and our three tips that will ensure you’re hitting the right level of detail every time.

Importance of Adding Details in Writing: Show, Don’t Tell

When you pick up a book to read, you want to feel like you’re there, in the story, experiencing the actions and emotions through the main character. What if your writing doesn’t achieve this desired experience? The solution to this is simple: show, don’t tell.

What does “show, dont tell” even mean? By telling your readers the story, you’re just giving them summaries and exposition. They’re not a part of the journey because the detail doesn’t give their mind anything to work with.

Showing is when your writing includes concrete, sensory detail your characters are noticing and experiencing. These vivid descriptions create a clear picture in your readers’ minds they can follow along with, which will make them focus on the story.

If you’re developing your writing style and you want to break writing rules and experiment with new ideas, that’s fine. However, the “show, don’t tell” rule is there to remind you to add more detail, which creates a better experience for the reader, so it’s best to avoid breaking that rule.

How to Add More Detail in Writing: 3 Tips

There are three easy tips you can use to ensure you’re adding details to your creative writing. You can also use these to add details to your nonfiction writing, as they’re transferable writing skills.

Tip 1: Use Concrete Description

You can create concrete descriptions using vivid, sensory details that show the reader what is happening in the scene. By selecting the correct details, you reduce the risk of your readers misinterpreting what is happening, how the characters feel, and what something looks like.

To add sensory details, writers use the five senses—touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound—which means you can easily add these by drawing from your own experiences for inspiration.

5 senses in writing

You can use writing as a great excuse for visiting new places and trying new foods. It’s fuel for your imagination, and you’ll be able to create descriptive writing using vivid language easier the more you experience.

You don’t even need to be writing about something that exists in our world. If you’re working on a fantasy story, and your characters are eating a fruit from that world but you know it tastes similar to a strawberry, you can write what eating a strawberry is like.

Using these vivid descriptions wisely will improve your creative writing. For example, if you’re writing short stories, you don’t have the word count to pack in a long description. Even one sentence can convey a full narrative when you add detail.

The alternative to writing concrete descriptions is to use abstract words and adjectives. However, be careful with them. Describing something as “bad” doesn’t give your readers’ imaginations much to work with. Picking the correct abstract nouns and adjectives can be difficult.

Tip 2: Stick to Using the Active Voice

A good rule for writing engaging sentences is to write with the active voice. Make sure your subject is the one doing the action in your sentence and not having an action done to them.

The active voice creates a sentence that shares details in the order your reader would notice them if the scene were played out in front of them.

Here’s an example:

Active version: I watched as the hunched older woman kissed James on the cheek.

Passive version: I watched as James was kissed by the hunched older woman on his cheek.

In these examples, you can see the active voice makes it easier for you to form the image of what’s happening. In the passive example, we’re looking at James, waiting for something to happen to him. That’s not the order of how you would notice it in reality.

You should only use passive voice as a stylistic choice. An example could be if your character is a victim of a brutal attack. You would use passive voice in that scene to show the action is happening to your character.

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Tip 3: Listen to How Your Writing Sounds

How your sentences sound can add another layer of detail to your creative writing. You need to ask yourself, how does the character feel in this moment, and how quickly are they taking in all the details? Once you’ve answered that, you need to check the rhythm of your sentences.

Rhythm can create an additional feeling for your readers by pacing the sentence to reflect how the actions are happening in the scene.

Is your sentence long like a slow-flowing lazy river that goes on and on with no signs of stopping anytime soon as it meanders all over the place without a care in the world?

Or is your sentence short? It gives few details. It gives them fast. It makes you read quickly. You’re rushing through the text. The sentence runs like a squirrel. It hurries the details, then stops.

As you can see, the rhythm forces the reader to take in the details at a speed relative to what is going on. You can use punctuation and sentence length to affect the pace the readers read.

When working on your writing rhythm, be mindful of adverbs. They don’t carry much weight in a sentence, and they can make it longer than it needs to be. For example, “the ship stopped very suddenly” is longer than “the ship stopped.”

How ProWritingAid Can Help You “Show, Don’t Tell”

One surefire way to ruin all the effort you’re making by showing, not telling is by letting spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes appear in your writing—ProWritingAid can help you prevent this from happening.

You can use the ProWritingAid Realtime checker to do a surface-level check for imperfections. It’ll point out spelling mistakes, incorrect punctuation, and grammatical errors.

Run the Style report on your story next, and focus on examples of passive voice, which you can change to active voice. This report will also highlight your adverbs so you can check they are adding the right details and not making your sentences too long.

If you notice your writing has a lot of passive voice and adverbs, try rewriting your sentences and including descriptive verbs instead. These describe an action and create an image in your mind without having to add extra words like adjectives.

On a more advanced level, you can use the Sensory report for an in-depth analysis of where you’re using concrete details. If you don’t see many examples in your writing, it’s time to add some more.

Conclusion on Adding Details in Writing

Adding details to your writing is as simple as the rule “show, don’t tell.” Just remember to use concrete descriptions, the active voice, and monitor your sentence rhythm.

Still worried about the amount of detail in your writing? Use ProWritingAid to check your work and make any changes. You’ll have readers living vicariously through your main characters in no time.

Write like a bestselling author

Love writing? ProWritingAid will help you improve the style, strength, and clarity of your stories.