Every writer will have challenges they have to overcome, and one of those challenges is learning how to write descriptively. In writing, learning how to balance description can make or break a piece. The more detail and description you have the more concrete the world and setting seem. However, by leaving things abstract, a good portion of a story will be left to the reader’s imagination. Each of these in excess can negatively impact a piece of writing, but knowing when to use each to affect the tempo of a story will not only help an audience engage with a piece of writing, it will also drastically affect the pace of the writing itself.
The piece below is one that I wrote in 2017. I think it is a very good representation of when I had started to gain some more confidence in my descriptive writing. And let’s face it, descriptive writing is hard. It’s still not perfect, but I think there comes a point when every writer has to let go of a piece and move on to their next great adventure.
Dawn of the Flame
Zara glared at the giant of a beast in front of her. The blood, her blood, ran hot down the side of her face. She never had tasted a color before, but the bitter taste of crimson in her mouth was worse than any metal she could name.
“Your line is pathetic. We should have killed you off long ago.” This man, her king, loomed tall against the burning orange radiance of the setting sun, looking more shadow than man against its glow. His axe gleamed and her own blood glinted like water droplets on a rose as it pooled calmly into the sacred ground of the nunnery. She cringed. This was not right. Nothing was right. Not the smoke burning in her lungs. Not her friend’s bodies being thrown onto the heaping mass of a fire. Gods guide their souls. They didn’t deserve this.
The King’s men were watching now as they circled around them jeering with and unceremonious taunts. The grin on the duchess’s face sent a shiver down her spine. There was a hunger in her eyes that no death could satisfy. The witch held Lilith by her arms, whispering things in her ear that made her cringe as she struggled against her grip. There were bruises already starting to form on her little girl’s soft skin. And despite the girl’s brazen stubbornness, Zara could see the fear beginning to well up into tears behind her eyes as they met. In that moment she felt a fire. She wanted to call out, to comfort her, run to her, anything to stop this.
“Then, why are you so worried your majesty?” Her voice felt weak, but she smiled up at him in all the grace she could muster. His expression never changed from the stone cold glare beneath the cold helmet that curved up and back in onyx, touting opal teeth as big as horns. “It’s impossible. You’ll fail my lord. No matter what you do. They will defeat you.”
“I’m a patient man, little cousin.” The King bent down in the blood soaked grass and stroked her hair with hands that seemed too soft for a tyrant to own. Zara tensed, wishing she hand the strength to push it away. But nonetheless, the images came. She saw the death, pain, suffering and Lilith. Zara’s stomach lurched slightly as she saw it all in the moment his hand brushed her face. Her sister’s death, her daughter’s pain, the rolling hills and dense forests of Faryn set aflame in in fire as a girl in agony threatened to destroy the fabric of their existence. And then she smiled.
“You’ll fail…” Her voice cracked and the wind blew cool across her face. For a moment she breathed a bit easier. “The gods have chosen a successor. You may wear the crown now but-”
The ax rose as she knew it would. She had seen this too. Slowly, too slowly, she tried to move her eyes back to Lilith. To see her girl one last-
But the ax fell and the sun set on the world that began to turn in flames.