Writing Description: Close up, Medium, or Long Shot?

Writing description comes easily to some and not so much to others. If you struggle with writing description, or even if you just want a fresh new way to approach it, consider viewing your descriptive passages as a filmmaker would.

I think of description in my writing the same way I think of framing shots when I’m writing or shooting a film. When we apply some basic framing principles to fiction writing, we can approach our descriptive sections with a lot more clarity.

For example, do I want a description of a character to be a CU (close up), a MS (medium shot), or a LS (long shot)? Each of these will create a different mood in and connection with the reader.

Think about how each of these feels to you when you’re watching a film. A close up puts us in the character’s personal space. It’s intimate. It forces the viewer to experience the character’s immediate emotional circumstance or the immediate effects (as the receiver) of that circumstance.

A medium shot still gives an up-close-and-personal experience, but it isn’t as immediate as the close up, and sometimes this is preferred if we want the viewer/reader to have a strong affinity with the character and his emotional world but also have a little more objectivity than he might have.

image credit: broadway.com

image credit: broadway.com

And a long shot gives us a full view of the character and his or her surroundings, which can also inform the reader and create mood and emotion. It’s more distant and can even be voyeuristic, depending on how it’s presented.

image credit: filmcomment.com

image credit: filmcomment.com

Try this exercise.

Pick something or someone to describe, then write three separate descriptions of your chosen object, as:

a close up

a medium shot

a long shot


Try it, and let me know how it goes.

In fact, share what you come up with in the comments below!

Sending you mad writing mojo…