42 Writing Prompts to Help You Describe a Scene

Writing can be tough because sometimes you just don’t know what to say. Sure, you have a plot and dialogue filling your pages, but filling the spaces in-between can be the real challenge. 
For me, it’s a major chore! I love writing dialogue. I love world-building. I love filling in the blanks on the plot.

But adding bits of description? No thank you. The way I see it is this: I have so much to pour into the plot and character development that explaining the kind of chairs my characters are sitting in seems pointless.

But you can’t do that to readers –They need to know the context in which your characters live and how they interact with the world.

That’s why I started assembling a list of writing prompts to help me through those phases when writing turns into a chore.

After all, your role as an author means you have to answer questions no one seems to ask. With these prompts you can be prompted to flesh out your scene as you write down the action and explore the plot. Description happens between all those important points and you can use these prompts to add helpful and insightful flavor.

What’s better, some of these prompts can even serve as plot complications. Others will simply help you to establish, re-establish or further develop the environment where your story is taking place. Still other prompts can be used to show readers that your story is grounded in reality.


Let’s go on to the list now.

  1. HOW is a character’s body involuntarily reacting to the situation?
  2. HOW is an object in the vicinity reacting to the action?  
  3. HOW has the action altered how one object interacts with another in the scene?
  4. HOW is cold and heat affecting the situation?
  5. HOW has the situation triggered feelings of comfort, discomfort or strength?
  6. HOW is a character feeling as a result of the action?
  7. HOW is a character trying to avoid thinking about what’s happening right now?
  8. WHAT is in the environment that is distracting the character?
  9. WHAT in the environment has triggered a moment of clarity?
  10. WHAT is a sharp detail that the character will always remember about this moment?
  11. WHAT in the environment can be used to juxtapose the action?
  12. WHAT would happen if a lot if a loved one judge your character on recent actions?
  13. DESCRIBE an object with uncharacteristic terms.
  14. DESCRIBE a surprising sound, sight or smell.
  15. DESCRIBE how the character got to this place.
  16. DESCRIBE the weight, bulk or physicality of an object
  17. DESCRIBE how the situation triggered a reminder of something in the past.
  18. DESCRIBE how clothing interacts with the person, especially if it inappropriately or ineffectively with what the person is trying to complete.
  19. DESCRIBE the forces of nature and how they are applied to this situation.
  20. DESCRIBE light, shadow and the lighting of the environment.
  21. DESCRIBE texture and hardness.
  22. DESCRIBE how the environment, even slightly, is affected by the action.
  23. DESCRIBE how a character’s senses have been blocked, overwhelmed or dazzled.
  24. DESCRIBE how color of one thing in the environment triggers a character’s memory
  25. REMIND readers of the physical consequences of the action even before it is completed.
  26. REMIND readers of the absurdities of the environment.
  27. REMIND readers of the normalcy of the environment.
  28. REMIND readers of the environment by adding a small animal or insect.
  29. REMIND readers of a special preparations that were made.
  30. REMIND readers of the world is continuing on despite the action.
  31. REMIND readers of an old wound the character has (physical or emotion).
  32. NOTE how a character’s physical condition affects his actions.
  33. NOTE unremarkable surroundings that add intriguing depth.
  34. NOTE how a meal is sitting.
  35. NOTE how different physical characteristics would help or harm a character’s actions.
  36. NOTE how the environment simply carried on despite what’s happening in your story.
  37. NOTE how the environment reminds a character of the past.
  38. PLANT an object and that cannot be altered and characters must work around.
  39. PLANT an object consistent with the pre-established environment to re-enforce it.
  40. PLANT colors that reflect the character’s mood.
  41. PLANT text in the scene that the character reads (accidentally) in the midst of action.
  42. PLANT an object that could entirely change the situation — if only it was operational!

These are just some simple questions you can ask. I’ll admit none of them are terribly original, but the idea is to get you to add a little more depth and description into your writing. Responding to these prompts within your story to help you summon up intriguing details that might otherwise slip away.

In fact, peppering your writing with simple details like this that can bring a story alive and add a touch of vibrancy to an otherwise unremarkable passage. Remember, the more details you provide (assuming it’s that kind of story) the more immersive the situation.

Of course the opposite can happen too.By sheer volume of details, you could end up boring your readers! They may just want to skip ahead to the action or dialogue that finally gets things moving again.

With that in mind, you need to mix this dialogue, action and description to the right proportion. When successfully intertwined, they’ll form a readable and enjoyable story. You just want to find the right blend!



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