9 ways to write about sight and make your work even more amazing

Reading Time: 8 minutes
write about sight

One of the most amazing things about being an author is the ability to create new worlds and take other people there. As a writer, you are their tour guide. You lead the way. To be successful, you must bring the story to life. How? By speaking to senses. Here’s how you can write about sight.

Most humans rely heavily on sight for information about their surroundings. But visuals do not only provide us with important data, they can also stimulate curiosity, and evoke emotions. When authors paint a vivid picture, these areas in the brain are stimulated equally, giving the reader the experience as if they are present. 

So, if you are looking for a way to transport your reader into a new world, a description of what they would see, matters. There is a reason that show, don’t tell is one of the most used phrases in creative writing.

If you want to write about sight to create extra layers to your story, there are some things you should take into consideration. That way you can make your work stand out.

1. Turn your text into an image

As said before, most people use sight for information about their surroundings. It paints a picture of what is happening, and if action is required. A lot of us are blessed by forming likewise images in our minds when we are given enough data. Let me demonstrate:

It was a large square chamber with high ceiling, filled with dozens of massive stone columns. A huge raised dais stood at the far end of the room, atop which rested an obsidian throne inlaid with silver and ivory skulls.

All this matched the module description exactly, with one huge difference. The throne was supposed to be empty, but wasn’t. The dem-lich Acererak was sitting on it, glaring down at me silently. A dusty gold crown glinted on his withered head. 

-From Ready Player One by Ernest Cline-

By giving the reader certain information, you can set the mood. When we look at the example, we don’t get the feeling that the protagonist just walked into a kid’s birthday party. Why? Because we envision the dark skull throne with a huge glaring demon and our brain immediately knows it’s No Bueno. 

write about sight

We might also get the feeling that the protagonist walked into something that was meant to remain undisturbed. The mean-looking dem-lich has a layer of dust on his crown. How long has it been sitting there? Kinda gives you Tomb Raider vibes, doesn’t it? 

2. Highlight what is important

Ernest Cline succeeded in painting a picture with this scene. How? By providing visual details. When you read obsidian you envision dark black stone, not white marble. He zoomed in on what is important. Let’s have a look at the same scene, but take out those key fragments. It would look something like this. 

It was a chamber with a ceiling, stone columns and a dais. Atop rested a throne. All this matched the module description exactly, with one huge difference. The throne was supposed to be empty, but wasn’t. Acererak was sitting on it, looking at me, with a crown on his head.

This shorter paragraph gives you the same technical information as the original, but it does not zoom in on anything but the throne. But even then, there is hardly any information offered.

In this situation, the protagonist could have walked in on his brother trying out their father’s seat. The room could be small, even cozy. It could turn into a smoldering scene. The context is taken away because we have not zoomed in on the centerpiece of the scene.

write about sight

So, when you want to create a strong visual image, make sure that you highlight what is important. Write about things that will set the mood, give the reader information, and add to the story. 

3. Don’t overdo it

Keep in mind that when you write about sight, a little goes a long way. So when you find your topic to zoom in on, make sure you don’t overdo it either. This can tire the reader and slow down your story. Let’s take a look at our example:

 It was a large square chamber, that could have fitted three football fields. I had to crane my thick neck so that my muscles bulged, to see the high ceiling. It was so far away, that the dark musty mold was barely visible. But it drooped down far enough, along the dozens of massive stone columns. 

They weren’t just any type of stone. It was dark stone, a black-grey type of stone with lighter waves through it as if somebody had blown smoke inside of it and it had frozen solid into place. It complimented the many square tiles that lay on the massive floor. 

 And so on, and so on. I don’t know about you, but I snoozed while writing that. It’s just too much. Sure, some of the details might be intriguing, but because all of it is described you have no idea about what is important. It loses its significance.

4. Write what you really see

Your visual scene will stand out when you add specific details. When you picked your topic of interest and you are ready to zoom in on it, make sure that you step away from the more generic descriptions. A deep blue ocean, lush green fields, a bright golden sun, you know the ones. 

Instead try to add details, unique to the subject. What is its shape? Does it throw an odd shadow? What feeling does the color evoke? Let’s see how Cline did it in our example.

It was a large square chamber with high ceiling, filled with dozens of massive stone columns. A huge raised dais stood at the far end of the room, atop which rested an obsidian throne inlaid with silver and ivory skulls.

Notice how he only describes what Parzival, the protagonist, can see? He doesn’t add information that would be unknown to the character. Something that happens often and looks something like this.

It was a large square chamber with high ceiling, filled with dozens of massive stone columns. Behind one of them, a dark figure lured at me, hidden in the shades. I couldn’t see it, but I felt its eyes on me. A kobold for sure. One of the ugliest ones I’ve ever encountered. With dark green stubbles on his face and yellow fangs escaping the flesh of his lips. His rotten breath hung like a misty cloud in front of him. Still, it startled me as he jumped out.

Although it doesn’t feel unnatural per se, this description is bogus. The character cannot see the figure, so how does he know it’s a kobold? And even if he did by some magical sixth sense, how did he know it was so ugly? Stay true to what your character sees, and don’t give away too much.

5. Write what is absent

When you write about sight, it can become very valuable to also include what is absent. It can give the reader a lot of information, and help them fill in certain gaps. It can also create suspension and friction. Look at this:

It was a large square chamber with high ceiling, filled with dozens of massive stone columns. A huge raised dais stood at the far end of the room, atop which rested an obsidian throne inlaid with silver and ivory skulls. But the place where the demi-lich normally sat, was vacant. A thick layer of dust rested on the seat as if it had not been used in a very long time. How long had I been gone?

Again, this scene will provide you with a lot of information. The absence of the always present demi-lich, tells you that something abnormal is going on. The layer of dust does not only confirm this but also tells you that it’s been going on for longer than the protagonist knows. And now the situation turns into a mystery. What is going on?

6. Play with composition

 Another way to make your scene come to life is to play with composition. Use it to set a mood. If you describe a field of long grass being pushed back and forth like the waves of an ocean, you evoke the emotion of peace. There’s just a certain calmness that comes with that. 

Now, if you describe a sideway rocking back and forth like the waves of an ocean, you evoke a different feeling. Why? Because it is out of place. The setting gives you information about what is going on with the protagonist. 

Let’s have another look at our example:

It was a small room, with a light ceiling, and soft blue walls. A red dais stood in the corner of the room, taking up half of the space, with on top an obsidian throne inlaid with silver and ivory skulls.

Now, no matter how hard you try. Can you be impressed or shaken by the throne? Location and composition play a big role in how you perceive things. In real life, and fiction.

7. Use comparison 

You might have seen throughout this article that when you write about sight, comparisons come in handy. Especially when you write about a fictional world that is slightly different than our own. A comparison can clarify what you are trying to get across. 

You have seen in our example, that this is not always needed. Again, make sure you do not overdo it. Let’s zoom in on it though, and see how Cline could have made use of comparison in this scene.

The throne was supposed to be empty, but wasn’t. The dem-lich Acererak was sitting on it, glaring down at me silently. A dusty gold crown glinted on his withered head, making him look like a Viking king, who died centuries ago. Where once were its eyes, two dark holes resided. It was as if I stared into an endless abyss. 

write about sight

8. Add emotion

When your senses are stimulated in the right way, it can trigger emotions and memories. These can be universal feelings, but also very personal. When you want your reader to feel something, it works to make your character go through something. 

When you have a strong and relatable character, it will feel to the reader that they are right there with them. Experiencing it as if they were in their shoes, or at least as if they are watching a good friend go through it. Let’s see what this does for Parzival.

It was a large square chamber with high ceiling, filled with dozens of massive stone columns. A shiver ran down my spine as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. The grey, dim-lit room reminded me of the basement in my grandmother’s house. I swallowed uncomfortably as I remembered that one winter’s night, where a hard gust of wind had blown the door shut. While I was inside. Alone. With only a short stump of a candle left. 

Feelings aren’t always personal, sometimes they are more universal. Something that looks sharp, pointy, and dark will seem threatening to us all. Most people refrain from hugging that. Be careful though, not everything that seems universal is. White is the color for weddings in the west, but also the color of death in the east. Do your research.

write about sight

9. Use it for subtext

Another way to make your scene stand out is by using sight for adding layers. How a character perceives something, gives you information on what they feel about the situation. Let’s have a look at our example one more time.

The dem-lich Acererak was sitting on it, glaring down at me silently. A dusty gold crown glinted on his withered head.

This scene, the perception of the protagonist, can change by adding a few words of subtext like this:

The dem-lich Acererak was sitting on it, glaring down at me silently. His hand turned in a claw, and he stretched his giant upper torso. A dusty gold crown glinted on his cruel-looking withered head.

Or like this:

The radiant dem-lich Acererak was sitting on it, glaring down at me silently. A dusty gold crown glinted on his gorgeous withered head.

Now…. that would be two whole different stories, would it not?

In conclusion

To quickly sum it up: when you write about sight, be aware that it can evoke emotions and spark memories. When you use it to stimulate curiosity, you will be able to guide your reader through any situation. Just keep in mind that dosage is important. Don’t overdo it. 

Now, dive back into your story and have a good look around through your characters’ eyes. Use it to your advantage and make your work even more amazing. 

You got this!

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