Content of the article: "How to Describe Things Effectively"
I hope that this little tutorial will help sharpen descriptive skills, or even form new ones for a fresher entrant. Also we can all write about our own styles and angles of approach so as to bolster the value of the discussion for any who look. Both text and video are available with some differences between them for both fun and additional material.
So to begin with, don’t over-encumber your speech. Best window to the described world is to blast the player early with clarity in the built image. No need for flowery language until the clear lines of the scene are set. Even after the initial description, keeping it clear and understandable while efficient and informative is of major importance. Any time you spend being long-winded beyond clarity is a time you all spend not playing that day and every other day where it happens, adding up.
Do give step by step a focus to things of great importance, those of emotional impact, and those of ambiental storytelling. Things lesser than that can come along as players explore and get in touch with further impressions. You can pepper these less central descriptions procedurally between player actions, covering touch, smell, sound, and the “vibe” of things and people! All this for further detail as it comes up asked for by players, or when required as a hint for further progression.
Give players time to react to their perceptions while accentuating possibilities. Sometimes these are even possibilities that can be gathered from previous information but would not come to light unless re-compiled more clearly from character’s current perspective by you the DM. This gives the more current window and refreshes memories of all present.
Stir away from dead ends. If thing is not of interest don’t be afraid to plainly state so! To re-focus the player attention, you can state probabilities and common sense conclusions out loud. Not everything is equally a mystery after all!
Use also your hands and paper! Show directions, outline shapes, point to things in relation to each other, make an invisible map on your desk occasionally by pointing things out. Draw quickly and don’t worry about your drawing skill. As long as you can draw quicker then describe, and the detail is important, draw it! Even when you are drawing just a piece, like a chest lid, but not the chest, the door handle but not the door, hill and a tree but not the full map, do so even if you think it is ugly. It is a method to orient players inside the image, it need not be as pretty. If you can do more, do more, drawn items cards are good…
And don’t forget to use comparisons as shortcuts in description! If you know that your players know something favorably, don’t be afraid to downright use it as a comparison to save time, describing the small differences rather than the whole thing from scratch. This works on all scales too, good for describing your whole campaign quickly!
I hope you enjoyed (and will ask questions if you have any)! Thank you so much for reading and/or watching.
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