Writing Scene Descriptions

22 Nov


“The battleship-gray sky smothered all conversation as our ferry made its way across Commencement Bay that December morning, the cold like icy picks stabbing our coats.”

It’s confession time: I struggle writing descriptive scenes.  The line above, from my upcoming novel “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” took me a half-hour to write, and when I finally threw up my hands and declared it good enough, I was already suffering from remorse.  Does it say, perfectly, what I want it to say? Can the reader see that oppressive scene?  Can they feel the chill in the air?

It is an education of the senses that I seek with my writing.

Let’s stop for a moment for a quote, and then we can continue this conversation.Yellowstone 2009 091


“There aren’t many great passages written about food, but I love one by George Millar, who worked for the SOE in the second world war and wrote a book called ‘Horned Pigeon.’ He had been on the run and hadn’t eaten for a week, and his description of the cheese fondue he smells in the peasant kitchen of a house in eastern France is unbelievable.” Sebastian Faulks

The really great writers make a scene come alive. They are the eyes, the nose, the ears, the fingers, and the tongues of their readers.  They find just the perfect words to bring dimension to the written scene.

Writers are observers. We observe for our readers and then share with them.

Have you tried the new 3-D goggles available on the market?  Bev’s youngest son just bought a pair, and he let us try them on.  There was some dinosaur video playing on them and I swear, the video, and the special effects, had me ducking and cringing when the dinosaur reached out towards me.

That’s what I think of when I think of the really great writers, the difference between two dimensions and 3-D goggles.

Which kind of writer are you?


A tip? I’m not sure. I’m just sharing with you what I do when writing a novel or short story.random pictures March 2012 011

I write the story first and don’t worry about describing the scene in any depth.  I don’t want my creative flow to be hampered by worrying about the specifics of a scene, so I just allow the whole story to flow on the first draft.

It’s on the second draft that my scenes come alive.  It’s on this draft that I make sure I pay close attention to the five senses of my readers.

Just something to think about.


Check out “The Writer” magazine online at www.writermag.com and sign up for their free e-mail newsletter.  Great tips are yours for free and I think it is well-worth the thirty seconds of effort to sign up.


I don’t do much non-fiction, but I came across “The Rumpus” and thought it was worth mentioning to you.

Rumpus editors want to “foster candid conversations around the social and political issues affecting their readers,” so they are looking for submissions in nonfiction, poetry, interviews, and reviews.  They accept submissions online so check them out by following this link for more information.


I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to my Lil Literary Sister, Cynthia, and her new blog/website, “Intuitive and Spiritual.”  You can find it by following this link.


Thanks for stopping by. We’ll make this a short one today. I’ve got to put the finishing touches on my latest novel, “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” and time is ticking.  Have a fantastic Thanksgiving and an even better week.


‘”Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

12 Responses to “Writing Scene Descriptions”

  1. Christy B November 22, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

    It’s interesting you struggle with description. I find dialogue to be more difficult. Ah, why can’t we just be good at everything?!! 😉 HUGS from BC

    • Billybuc November 22, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

      I don’t know, Christy, but it sure would be nice if we could be. 🙂 Thanks my friend and hugs from rainy Olympia.

  2. Shauna L Bowling November 22, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    I think too often writers describe the visuals of a setting and forget that their readers don’t have the same image in their heads because they aren’t privy to how the setting affects the author. That’s where the other senses come into play. The writer should evoke a response – or reaction – to the setting. That ‘s not easy to do because we tend to take those things for granted. Or don’t even realize how a setting affects our senses and emotions. I’m having difficulty explaining what I mean, but I think you get what I’m trying to say,

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Bill. Tomorrow I’m boarding the Amtrak and traveling south to spend the holiday with my family. It’s been way too long since I’ve seen them. I’m taking a notebook in anticipation that the train ride sparks my muse to whisper in my ear. 🙂

    • Billybuc November 22, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

      Sha, that’s great news, your traveling to see family. Have a wonderful time down south and yes, I hope it wakes up your muse.

  3. Janine Huldie November 22, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

    Finally getting a minute to check and read your advice here (which of course I couldn’t agree with me) as I was up at the girls’ school helping run the Thanksgiving Party for my younger daughter. Just wanted to wish you wonderful afternoon and also Happy Thanksgiving later in the week now, Bill 🙂

    • Billybuc November 22, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

      Aw, thanks, Janine, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I appreciate you very much, my friend.

  4. Stephanie Launiu November 23, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Hi Billy, I’m “rebooting” after slowing down on my writing efforts. Thank goodness I’m still subscribed to your blog. Anyway, at writermag.com/webinars you can sign up for a free webinar titled “How to Write a Personal Essay That Sells”. It’s on Tues Dec 6 at 2pm EST. I thought your readers might like to know. Thanks for your advice as always. I’m still on Hubpages and will keep in touch on my other ventures. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Billybuc November 23, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

      Stephanie, thanks so much for sharing that information about Writer. I’ll share it in the next blog. And Happy Thanksgiving to you. I, for one, am very grateful that you are a writer and a friend.

  5. Lawrence Hebb November 24, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    Enjoyed the ‘description’ at the beginning. Not sure when I write mine, I just know when it’s not there, and I keep going until the senses are ‘engaged’
    Happy Thanksgiving

    • Billybuc November 25, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

      Lawrence, I love your description: “keep going until the senses are engaged.” Yes, that says it all.

  6. Sageleaf November 25, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

    When I was writing each of the two novels, I approached the drafts differently. I think I like the “barrel through the first draft” and “don’t edit til the third draft” method – which, it seems, is similar to your approach. 🙂
    I’m getting ready to start another: I’ve been collecting notes and “plotting” since September…I have a lot of things going on between work and blogging, but when do I NOT have a million balls in the air that I’m juggling. *chuckle…cough, cough.*

    • Billybuc November 26, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

      My Lil Sis, the overachiever! Glad we didn’t grow up together. I would have been constantly mad at you for making me look bad. LOL

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