Ever since I was a child, I hated reading descriptions in books. I would skim right over long sections of paragraphs until I reached the dialogue. This was why I used to enjoy writing plays, television scripts, and screenplays. As I moved into my career as a teacher, my interest shifted to pictures books — because once again, I didn’t need it when a picture would support the text. Then in 2006, I had to get over my feud with description if I was going to attempt a middle grade series.
I still start with mostly dialogue in my early drafts; the descriptions usually come later through a process I like to call Description Infusion. I read through the dialogue and close my eyes trying to picture the scene. I see the fog rolling through darkness or the leaves falling from branches as the impending winter moves in. I hear the waves crash against the shore, feel the spray of the mist against my skin. I see the nick in the table as the character focuses on a tiny detail that takes her attention away from a conversation she would rather not be having. A minor detail can transform the whole mood of a scene — and all it takes is a few words.
In conversations, especially ones that require a deeper reflection, I often fix my attention on something without even realizing it. I might notice a loose thread in a curtain or an ant moving along a crack in the sidewalk. So wouldn’t my characters do the same thing? By attaching a minor detail to a conversation in a scene, you are adding a new dimension to your writing. Perhaps you would like that scene to convey the message that the character feels as though her life is coming undone. Now wouldn’t that loose thread in the curtain help support the feelings your character is conveying through her words?
It is not the pages of details that make a story but the tiny ones that are infused within the scene to set just the right mood for your readers.