Descriptive writing & figures of speech

Descriptive writing & figures of speech

Why is it important to include descriptive writing to a novel? It is so since unlike movies, novels aren’t visual.

Watching a movie, you might find out that all the “descriptions” are performed by a microphone and camera. However, if it comes to writing, the writers have only the words to be used. You will need to use them correctly to make the reader understand how something looks and smells.You might utilize them literally (“he wore a black suit”) or write in a figurative language. For instance: “She looked like a sea after the storm.”

You might think the words are unable to be compared to a camera. Partially, it is really so.

However, there is a power of imagination which must not be neglected.

Meaning, if you see a beautiful picture in a movie, you are rather bound because you perceive it the way the director perceives it.

However, if you utilize descriptive writing, you might leave only a few details, and the reader will combine them the way he or she feels to create a beautiful setting in their minds.

Therefore, the more visual ways the scene can be perceived.

Meaning, the description is very powerful. Nevertheless, it is important not to overdo it and come up with slushy writing. So, keep the balance!

Metaphors and similes are the most important figures of speech. In fact, they are used in every good description.

If they are utilized well, they can transform the story. However, they can kill the prose if there is too much of them and if they are used badly.

What are similes and metaphors?

Both similes and metaphors compare the thing with another one. Such words as “like” and “as” are signs of a simile used:

His hair was like silk.

Metaphors are rather transformative:

The girl was a beast.

With the help of metaphors and similes, you can describe things that might have been impossible to present utilizing so few words.

Take, “the girl was as a beast.” The metaphor shows that the qualities of a girl were unusual. She was aggressive, strong, and not smart. In just a few words, you say all this stuff.

Note that metaphor is stronger than a simile. For example, “His hair was silk” is more powerful than “His hair was like silk.” However, every good description must include such figures of speech as metaphor and simile.

When to use similes and metaphors.

If a simile is so weak, why not to utilize only a metaphor? Have a look at the example:

“When Tom opened the door, he had to screw up his eyes against the glare. The sun was dazzling off the snowy rooftops as they were mirrors. It was twenty seconds before he could see clearly. There were no human footsteps on the driveway, and Tom felt like a pioneer, trudging towards the front gate. While he was sleeping, the world transformed into a fairy tale.”

There are three figures of speech in this paragraph. Two of them are similes: “as they were mirrors” and “like a pioneer.” One is a metaphor: “the world transformed into a fairy tale.”

With little reworking, the similes can easily be written as metaphors. However, it would be too much.

The final metaphor is the climax of the paragraph. It carries maximum weight. So everything should be built towards it with no overshadowing. So the similes should be kept the way they are.

Four rules for using similes and metaphors

1. Less is definitely more.

We can compare metaphors and similes with the final touches in the room. If they are utilized properly, the novel will be beautified. If there is too much of them, the novel will look gaudy.

2. Avoid the commonplace.

Look what is wrong with the example?

“She drank as a fish.”

When you use it for the first time, it will look clever and fresh. But now it is not!

Utilize interesting and original figures of speech so the readers will take notice. Use metaphors and similes which come to the reader’s mind easily.

3. Don’t use two similes together.

We do not recommend to use too many similes, just do not utilize them right one after another because it is too much.

This is a bad example:

“Her hair was like silk, her eyes like the sea, and her nose as a tower.”

4. Don’t mix metaphors.

Have a look at the example:

“Jack’s mind was a machine. He could read the encrypted words in seconds.”

The message here is rather a confusing one. Firstly, his intelligence is compared to a machine, but then it is told about the speed of performance.

So, follow the metaphors through as you use them like here:

“Jack’s mind was a machine. He managed to process encrypted words in a few seconds.”

Other figures of speech

Apart from similes and metaphors, there are other figures of speech to improve the descriptive writing. Let’s have a look at them…


Here you should take the inanimate object and make it animate by giving them the qualities of a human. Check out the example of personification:

“The Spring came early this year and made many people smile and happy.”

Using personification, you can turn the story to be more dynamic.


Hyperbole is a radical exaggeration to give comic effect. It might make you smile or cry. It is one of the best ways to craft a picture in a reader’s mind.

Good descriptive writing is not about the quantity, but about making readers see what the author views.


Use such words as actions like “crash” and “bang”. Use onomatopoeias more subtly if you don’t want your piece of writing sound like “Batman.”


It is when certain sounds are repeated in one sentence. Poetry utilizes alliteration most of the time. However, it might be used in prose as well when it is in the right places and sparingly utilized.

For example: “The son of Sammy was so sweet today.” (The sound “s” is repeated.)

Bottom line on figures of speech?

Note that the best descriptive writing happens when you do not think too much about it. For example, it might be compared to dance where you should dance first and avoid thinking about your further moves. Everything should come naturally.

We guess now you can write your descriptive writing based on this article. As you are already aware of various types of figures of speech, it will be much easier for you to generate a solid piece of descriptive writing.

We help every beginner become a professional. Therefore, if you read the article attentively, you will significantly master your descriptive writing abilities and skills.

However, what should you do if you doubt whether you can compose such a type of writing?

The best thing we can recommend is to keep on practicing. The more you practice, the better the quality of your descriptive writing is.

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