Writers logo

Show, Don’t Tell

How to Use Descriptive Writing to Bring Your Story to Life

By Wendy Van CampPublished 9 days ago 3 min read
Image by 51581 from Pixabay

As authors, we are the sorcerers who weave tales, the architects of imaginary worlds. Our mission is to transport readers to distant lands, to make them see and experience the story as if they were living it. But how do we accomplish this feat? How do we bring our stories to life in vivid technicolor?

Our starting point will be a sensory extravaganza. Descriptive writing is not just about painting a picture with words; it’s about creating a multisensory experience that engulfs readers in your fictional world. Transport them to a bustling marketplace, where the air is thick with the aroma of spices, vibrant colors assault their eyes, and the chatter of voices surrounds them as a symphony. By engaging their senses, you create a connection, making your story come alive in their imagination.

Let’s discuss the potency of language. To unlock descriptive writing’s full potential, being precise is the key. Don’t settle for generic terms; instead, choose words that evoke vivid imagery and capture the essence of what you’re describing. Don’t say “the forest is green”, conjure an image of a cathedral of towering emerald pillars, where sunlight filters through the canopy of leaves, dappling the ground with ethereal patterns. Using evocative language helps your story to come to life and become more engaging to the reader.

The timeless adage of “show, don’t tell” is still valid. Instead of simply telling readers what something looks like, show it through actions and observations. Let your characters bring the descriptions to life. Show their emotions via body language, their expressions, and their reactions to the world around them. Rather than saying a character was sad, show the tear that trickles down their cheek, the slump of their shoulders, or the gaze that lingers on a distant horizon. By doing this, you create a more immersive experience, allowing readers to witness the story firsthand.

Descriptive writing is the gateway to a reader’s imagination. It is the brush that paints vivid landscapes, a symphony to fill their senses, a portal that transports the reader into your story. Through sensory detail, evocative language, and the art of showing, not telling, you can breathe life into your story, making it engaging and unforgettable.


Wendy Van Camp is the Poet Laureate for the City of Anaheim, California. Her work is influenced by cutting edge technology, astronomy, and daydreams. She is a nominated finalist for the Elgin Award, a Pushcart Prize, and for a Dwarf Stars Award. Her poems, stories, and articles have appeared in: “Star*Line”, “Scifaikuest”, and “Indy Author Magazine”, among many others. She is the editor of two annual poetry anthologies “Eccentric Orbits” and “Anaheim Poetry Review”, and a guest editor for the SFPA’s “Eye To The Telescope”. She is a graduate of the Ad Astra Speculative Fiction Workshop and a member of SFWA, Codex, SFPA, and IBPA. Find her books on all major online retailers. Learn more at http://wendyvancamp.com

Take a literary exploration of the solar system in Wendy Van Camp's debut poetry collection, nominated twice for the Elgin Award for Best Speculative Poetry Book of the Year in 2020 and 2021. It features her signature science fiction haiku (scifaiku) and astropoetry. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Z8HMPF2

No Wasted Ink Newsletter & Ramblecast https://nowastedink.substack.com

No Wasted Ink is a free monthly newsletter featuring an original writing tips essay, a monthly “ramble” by Poet Laureate Wendy Van Camp, and her poem of the month. Wendy’s upcoming events, places where she has recently published or appeared on podcasts is listed. The Ramblecast is a voiceover podcast reading of the essay, ramble, and poem in the poet’s voice which comes in your email along with the written newsletter.


About the Creator

Wendy Van Camp

Poet Laureate of Anaheim, CA. I'm a speculative poet, scifi author, essayist, and poetry editor. A Pushcart Prize, Elgin Award, and Dwarf Star Nominee. Member of SFWA, SFPA, IBPA.

Connect with me:

Instagram | Newsletter | Portfolio

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.