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  • Writer's pictureRussell F. Hirsch

Descriptive Language that Sparkles

Kill your darlings! Get to the point! Plot over prose!

How many times have you heard advice about simplifying your writing for middle grade readers? And to be fair, it’s often the right course of action. In middle grade books, storyline and clarity are paramount. But that doesn’t mean you can’t include beautiful description and figurative language. Take Pari Thomson’s GREENWILD


This fantastical mystery is perfect for fans of NEVERMOOR, with nature magic woven in! A warm cast of characters! Environmental themes! Fabulous settings! But I also loved the writing itself, especially three ways Thomson makes her language come to life. Let’s look at some examples…

Luminous Language

“[The giant dandelions] were radiant, luminous, as if they’d been sprinkled with a watering can full of moonlight.” (page 75)

“In fact, her face was almost more freckle than anything else, as if someone had painted a galaxy of fawn-colored stars across her pale round cheeks and around her greenish eyes.” (page 120)

Both these lines combine imagery of the natural world here on earth (dandelions, fawn-colored) with more luminous, cosmic imagery (moonlight, galaxy/stars). One of the reasons nature seems so magical in Pari Thomson’s novel is because of such bright, wondrous, out-of-this-world descriptions.

Within-world Comparisons

“Daisy felt her heart pounding like a lightning seed about to explode.” (page 255)

I love similes and metaphors that refer back to elements unique to the story world. (Lightning seeds are a type of magical plant in GREENWILD.) A pounding heart is a common experience–especially in adventure fiction. But comparing a heartbeat to something that only exists in this book ensures the description avoids cliche and reinforces the story’s worldbuilding.

Blended Senses

“Her voice was sweet and scratchy, like honeycomb.” (page 103)

Appealing to the senses is a fabulous way to ensure description comes alive. Not only does the above line keep up the natural imagery, it doubles its impact by appealing to two different senses at once: sound (her voice) and taste (sweet, honeycomb).

Here’s another example doing double (or triple) duty on the senses front:

“It was as if someone had lit a sparkler in Daisy’s stomach, fizzing and painfully bright.” (page 92)

This line not only appeals to our sense of sight (lit, sparkler, bright) but also touch/inner sensations (in Daisy’s stomach) and even sound (fizzing). Plus, it has some luminous language yet again.

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With language as lush as a botanical garden, GREENWILD is a delight. And with sequels planned, we’ll be able to enjoy plenty more of Pari Thomson’s sparkling descriptions in the years to come!

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