When you ask it this way: “Which description is best?” you ask a meaningless question. Or one that anyone may answer with any sort of opinion. Unlikely that this will be helpful unless you’re goal is  to take a poll and not try to figure out how description best serves fiction.

Maybe ask rather “What do you want a description to do?”

One notion with fiction is to tell the story by causing the reader to picture things in his or her mind as if a movie of the story were taking place.

If you think of it this way, then one of the ideas of how to write prose is to make it “transparent,” so that the reader doesn’t really notice the words flowing past—the words don’t interfere with, confuse or slow down the movie-making process taking place in the reader’s mind.

A description can still be vivid, such as

guitar notes struck the air like silver dimes.

Which is from that classic of imagery and metaphor, Lie Down in Darkness, William Styron’s all but forgotten first novel.

A line like that is certainly striking, but its effect on the reader’s mind is why it is so good, taking something that’s auditory and making it visual as well. Is that what effective imagery always does or only sometimes does? Just asking.

A good thing to read on the subject of how to describe stuff in fiction is Stephen King’s essay Imagery and the Third Eye, Google it.


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