Notice the vivid description of smoke in this excerpt from Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills:
To be evocative, descriptive writing has to unite the concrete image with phrasing that evokes the impression the writer wants the reader to have. Consider “her eyes shone like sapphires, warming my night” versus “the woman’s eyes had a light like sapphires, bright and hard.” Each phrase uses the same concrete image, then employs evocative language to create different impressions.
- He earns $300 a week. (This sentence sounds much better than ‘He gets $300 a week.)
- I received the parcel this morning. (Better than ‘I got the parcel this morning’.)
She is a student.
She is a brilliant student.
She is a brilliant and hardworking student.
“I ate the last one.” She stared at her hands.
One way to get away with using elements of language such as ‘-ly’ adverbs is to combine them with other elements of description. For example, consider this example, also from Roy’s novel:
1. A sol-fa of song erupts as the stars fade away, the ancient alchemy of the dawn chorus.
1. Spring is glee. It’s a fizzy tonic, like a slowly overflowing bottle of bubbling joy.