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How the setting looks in my head:

How the description comes out on the page:

Okay so, bit of advice:

Break it down into its basic elements. What do we got? Mountains, clouds, field, water, sky.

What are the simple descriptions we can use that will immediately get across this concept in the least amount of words possible? Snow-capped mountains. Drifting clouds. Clear skies. Flowering fields. Pristine lake.

Character looked out and saw flowering fields, broken up by the mirror surface of a pristine lake. Fluffy clouds drifted below clear skies, close enough that it seemed like Character could reach out and touch them. Snow-capped mountains bordered the horizon.

If you want, you can then throw in some sensory information to round it out. What’s the air like, what’s the temperature, can one hear the wind blowing through the grass, or birds singing, etc, etc. You don’t want the reader to feel like they’re looking at a picture, you want them to feel like they’re standing in it, so sensory information is usually better at getting that across. If it doesn’t matter to the story how many mountain peaks are in the distance, then leave that to the reader’s imagination. What you really want is for your words to evoke the same feeling that the picture does.

And style, obviously, can come into play, and make things more flowery, or less. To add in more details, just lengthen the list of elements you want to describe, like including more about the flowers or grass or distant hills or visible greenery on the mountains, and go from there.

Also, take breaks. Your brain needs rest, too.

Also? What you’re writing is not an objective, dispassionate description of the scene; it’s a subjective description from the point of view of a particular character. 

So what sorts of details is your POV character going to notice first? And how much detail are they going to notice at all? Lots, or only a little bit? What sort of mood are they in? Busy and distracted? Happy and wanting to enjoy the great outdoors? Or maybe they’ve come out specifically to sketch this scene at this time of day?

Your character will always lead you in the right direction if you listen to them. If you’re having trouble with the detail, it’s probably because you haven’t thought through how your character feels about it in enough detail.

A lazy example :)

I sneezed again. We should have travelled in the fell season, before the snows. Summer was a bad decision. Never piss off a forest spirit, let me tell you that now. You’ll live to regret it. How was I meant to know I was squatting in a sacred grove when I went to take care of my very natural business?

I had been told we had come to mountains and lakes and wondrous lands to behold. Right now, there were kind of pointed blurs behind kind of shimmery blurs and until I could see or stop sneezing long enough to get my bearings - or, the Gods forbid, both - I had to trust my companion to guide me to the next path.

I was suddenly ankle deep in mud and water.


My companion was an arsehole.

Yes! This too! Though it can also be tricky if you’re doing a more omniscient perspective, in which case your character’s POV isn’t going to inform as much of the prose. In that situation, you need to decide for yourself what style of narrative you want to use, independent of character input. This will help keep things consistent.

Sometimes you can even contrast the narration/prose with the character’s inclinations, which is especially good for comedy writing.


Character found themselves surrounded by flowering fields, broken up by the mirror surface of a pristine lake that stretched below an equally clear sky. Fluffy clouds drifted by, close enough that Character might have reached out and touched them. Snow-capped mountains bordered the horizon. Their verdant slopes held the promise of bountiful wilderness, virtually untouched by the hand of civilization.

“…I am lost as fuck,” said Character.

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