Your duty, as a writer, is to put your reader in the room with your characters. You must enable your reader to see, hear, smell and feel what your character is perceiving. You must enable your reader to wear the clothes of your character and walk about in them for the duration of your novel. Any failure in the vision of your reader is down to a lack of good description by you the writer.

Make a conscious decision each day to notice, in detail, the people, places, and events around you. Then use the following exercises to get good at describing your characters and their surroundings:

  • Gather up a couple of simple items, put them on a plain backdrop, study them closely for sixty seconds, then write one hundred words about each object in as much detail as you can
  • Next time you’re out, spend some time looking at strangers. Imagine that you’re going to have to identify them in a police line-up, or better yet, describe them to a police artist
  • Find a complex, interesting setting – a city centre, a clearing in a wooded area, an art gallery, and then really pay attention to what is in front of you whilst doing your best to notice everything, not just with you eyes, but with all your senses.

If you cannot describe your scenes and characters adequately then your reader will feel like they are standing in the dark listening to someone muttering on the other side of a wall. If you don’t get enough detail through to them to keep their interest, then they will put your book down and look for something else.

(Some material adapted from


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