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Characters and Setting - Improve Descriptions in Writing

Updated on April 29, 2015
brakel2 profile image

Tips for writing and public speaking evolved from Audrey's participation in a Toastmasters' organization.

Characters and Setting Bring Stories to Life

The description of characters and setting is very important in writing and speaking. When you talk about a place or person, you must describe that person or place so that an individual can visualize it. A description in ordinary words like "beautiful" does not suffice, as it is too general a word. You can use the Thesaurus to find appropriate words. In fiction writing or speech, the descriptions are especially important. The descriptions used are the senses of smell, taste, touch, see, and hear. Describing the appearance of an object or a place brings it to life as well as a character. This article will discuss the use of the senses in writing.

Sense of Touch


Sight or Vision. When writing about vision, you would describe a character. What is the character wearing? What color is the hair? What is the build slender, hefty? Any special characteristics, like a mischievous smile, or a twinkle in eyes? Is he running, walking? What is the setting? Is the character in front of his house? What does the house look like? Does the house have a lawn, a fence, old house, cottage? Is it raining or snowing? Sunny day? If you are talking about a non-fiction story, such as candle warmer, what does it look like? What color is it, shape, how does it light? Or a garden- What is in the garden, what are the colors, where is the garden, how do you get to it, describe the beauty using alternate words such as a red rose with petals which shine in the sun like a satin sheet.

Hear. Describe the sound like the roar of thunder, flashes of lightning, people laughing, screaming yelling, soft-spoken, boisterous; ocean with the high waves blown by the sound of a windstorm, or with people jumping over the crashing waves.

Smell. Smell of fresh raindrops, smell of dew on the ground, smell of luscious apple pies cooking in oven, smell of fragrant roses, smell like the remains of a campfire, smell of hot sweaty people working out, smell of barbecuing, smell of freshly cut grass, smell of perfume, smell of lavender lotion and candles which induce sleep.

Touch. Gentle touch from partner, the touch of silk or velvet fabric, grass that feels like silk, touch the cool ocean water; feel the hailstone from the storm, hair that feels like silk, the feel of rain on your face

Taste. Her lipstick tasted like a fresh cherry as I kissed her. I could almost taste the fresh cherry pie cooling on the windowsill. When I received his letter, I could almost taste the cologne that he wears. The barbecue next door made me imagine the taste of the steak on the grill. His caress made me taste his sultry salty sweat.

Descriptive Writing

Sense of Smell


Sense of Taste


Sense of Vision


Sense of Hearing


Descriptive Sentences Using Senses

The following are examples of a simple sentence and a descriptive sentence.

A beautiful woman entered the room.

A slight glamorous young woman with golden brown hair and vivid red suit quietly entered the smoke filled room. (see hear smell)

A young boy played in the street.

A hefty young boy with light blond wavy hair noisily played touch basketball with friends in the street. (see hear touch)

The house stood at the top of the hill

An elegant mansion of gray stone and decorative windows stood at the top of a snowy rolling hill; a loud voice pierced the silence. (see hear)

The parade went down the main street.

A parade with vibrant colored floats and laughing clowns rode past the boisterous crowd. (see hear)

A motorcycle drove down the street.

A motorcycle shattered the area as the cyclist drove by, probably wondering why it was so quiet. (see hear)

It is damp outside.

The odor of dampness permeates the air, making it difficult to breathe. (smell see)


I learned about descriptive characters and settings from a famous romance author and from sixteen years in a speech club. The subject fascinates me, and I hope new writers learn something from this guide. For further information on writing, I invite you to read " How to Become Inspired to Write an Article"


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    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      4 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Thanks for the helpful writing tips.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Barber Girl - Thank you for reading my hub on descriptions. It sounds like you have a monumental task in front of you. I hope you can use the info from my article to make it easier for you. I love to think of descriptions. In fact, one person commented in a hub that I went overboard in describing a woman. I liked what I did, so you get all sorts of comments. It is good that people are honest. I have read a hub of yours and want to read more. Stop by again.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      'Tom Thank you for reading my hub and for your nice comments, The descriptions are a little exaggerated to show what you can do with descriptions. In a normal speech, as you say, you would be going overboard using so much descriptive speech. We have a storytelling club, so sometimes, in our stories, descriptions are used. Anyway, it is fun to think of all the ways to describe a place or a person. Take care and good luck with your writing. Stop by again.

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 

      6 years ago from Virginia

      Great hub, easy to follow these great tips. Thanks!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I am currently working on NaNoWriMo and let me tell you, this is a very difficult task. I really want to be able to describe scenes and characters but sometimes it is difficult to get them in there without really making it sound awkward. This hub is definitely invaluable!

    • Tusitala Tom profile image

      Tom Ware 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I note that your article begins by referring to both Speaking and Writing. I do a lot of both.

      Firstly, I commend you on the depth and quality of your Hub; very useful indeed. There is certainly a need for this sort of educational Hub.

      However, lengthy written descriptions such as 'A volutuous blonde carrying a well-groomed white miniature poodle, bulging shopping bags banging against her obviously too tight low-cut, dress tottered on stilletto heels across the intersection to the appreciative honking of a dozen car horns.' might go well in descriptive writing. It comes across as far to much in an oral story. In the oral story, the actions are not so much described as 'acted out' with the speaker's body-language. The audience fill in what they see in their minds, of course, just as they do when reading.

      Just thought I'd mention that. Description can go just too far...

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Thank you for reading my article and for your most gracious compliment. It is sometimes hard to find the happy medium, so you don't sound too wordy. I love the subject and enjoyed writing about character and settings. I see you will soon have a degree. Congratulations. I love to read profiles, especially the new ones. to learn about other writers on the site. Congrats also on the 99 score. I will look up your hubs, and happy writing. Stop by again.

    • nochance profile image


      6 years ago from Minnesota

      This is a great hub with some very useful tips. I think it's important to find the happy medium between not enough description and too much. It really depends on your writing style and particular moments in the book. This is going on my list of articles to promote during National Novel Writing Month. Thank you.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      I must have missed this comment, and I thought I was caught up. Thanks for reading my hub, and making the nice comments. I try to use descriptions in writing, as they are so important. Writing this hub was also a reminder for me. Happy to have you as a follower. I think I am already following you. I see you are from Alabama, and I now know one person from that great state. Good luck in your writing and hope your traffic stays up.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      (I Really Need the Advice in This Hub).

      Hello,brakel, This was a

      GREAT read! Amazing presentation. Informative and very helpful. Voted up and away for I love your writing style and I am now honored to FOLLOW you.

      Please keep up the great work and I Invite YOU to check out my hubs, that is if you need a good laugh.

      And I would love for you to be a follower. That would make my day. Highest Regards,

      Kenneth Avery,

      from Hamilton, a small (but proud) town in northwest Alabama that Norman Rockwell would have been happy to put on a magazine cover. Much Peace and Success to you!

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Eileen - Thanks for comment on hub. I know the feeling about forgetting to use senses. I wish I was better at fiction where you can use it more. It still comes in handy in non-fiction describing candles, gardens and many other things. I am trying to keep up with your hubs. You are so good, and your hubs are on interesting topics. Take care.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      7 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Thanks for another great hub, I am also guilty of not using enough expression and the use of all the senses.

    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Thank you for the wonderful comments about my hub. I really enjoy working on characters and setting and would love to look at your short stories. I will definitely look at your contest entry. I took a course from a romance writer which I loved. She was so great with description. I know that sometimes it is difficult to remember to get into descriptions, but it is so much fun to describe the characters to make then come alive. Thanks for being a fan. Your interest is sincerely appreciated. Good luck with your writing, and I will look for your hubs. Hope you are feeling better after the flu.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I enjoyed this hub and think you've given very good suggestions, brakel2, for making use of the senses in writing. They should work for both fiction and non-fiction.

      I realize that I do not always give enough conscious thought to descriptive writing in my short stories. When I simply take the nugget of an idea and begin typing without thinking through the entire story first, I'm rarely satisfied with the result. However, my "thinking through' usually centers on plot.

      The first step toward improvement, of course, is being aware of what is needed, then putting into practice what one learns. Since I'm still learning about writing short stories, I'm always grateful for the lessons to be learned from other generous writers on HubPages. Thanks for what you've shared.

      Your other hub titles are intriguing, and a couple of them touch on my own experiences, so I'll be "catching up" with your writing as a new fan. It may take me a bit, because I'm recovering from a bout of flu-like virus and am limiting my time at the computer on my first day back.

      I've had a short story waiting since last week to publish for the current contest and will be publishing it today, I hope. It's entitled SIMMERING SUSPICION, and I hope you will both read and comment on it once it's available.

      By the way, I do not expect lavish praise for my efforts, but prefer candid critiques. How else does one learn what one needs to improve?


    • brakel2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Selig 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Thank you Bbudo for the comments about my hub. It is a teaching hub, and I am glad it helped you. I love to describe people and settings in my articles, no matter what the subject. Another pleasure of mine is imagining what the photos of characters and places can mean to a story. I will look for your hubs. Good luck with your writing.

    • Bbudoyono profile image


      7 years ago

      This is an excellent hub. You present it very well. This is what I need. Thanks a lot, voted up.


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