Economize with setting descriptions

With length of prose being the perennial challenge in flash storytelling, making setting descriptions crisp and meaningful is paramount.  A great description of place can be helpful in compressing a story by serving double-duty and illuminating a character or other necessary story element. For example, a thoughtful description of the contents of your dad’s desk is an effective storytelling maneuver that can inject setting and variety into your story and can show versus tell your reader about his personality.  Instead of “my dad was a good husband and father,” describing the photos and memorabilia he kept on his desk can convey this trait quite effectively.

Don’t be tempted to go overboard and make the mistake of frivolous description in your story. For one thing, you don’t have room. And more importantly for your reader, every detail needs to be relevant to your story. Ensure that all descriptions are meaningful and further your story in a productive way.

For more helpful tips and resources, see these two posts by Sharla Rae on her Writers in the Storm blog:
Place descriptions: It’s about atmosphere not a travel log
Place descriptions: Waterways

Plus, this unusual Setting thesaurus may be useful.

See more writing tips here.

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Categories: writing tips

3 Comments on “Economize with setting descriptions”

  1. January 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    This advice actually is helpful to those of us who write much longer works, non-flash works. Being able to master brevity adds power to our work. Instead of two paragraphs of description, a few words that convey the feel of a place (or a person) drives up the intensity. Thanks for this reminder. I (and my writing students) need it!

    • January 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

      Hi Lynette,
      Yes, flash storytelling techniques are valuable to all writers for exactly the reason you cite – adding power to your work. Your challenge in longer pieces is to know which techniques to use where for best effect – the lifelong quest of every storyteller.
      Thanks for taking the time to add your thought!


  1. Color of our words | FlashMemoirs - April 2, 2014

    […] You might also like How to write about family Create associations for your reader Economize with setting descriptions […]

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