How to enhance the realism of a description

Flaws characters

The writing we love is writing that reveals a specific person or item or experience. We aren’t drawn to generalizations about topics or people.

One way to enhance the realism of a description is to include flaws:

  • a crooked nose
  • a sunset with a streak of grey smoke from a passing jet run right through it
  • the family sofa which is worn on both arms
  • the goal scored over the head of the goalie that hit the rim of the net… and dropped in anyway
  • the bite of homemade pie whose raspberries left a stain on my teeth
  • the chipped paint on a favorite bicycle
  • the piece of toilet paper stuck to the shoe after using a public restroom
  • the partial confession to a parent (telling the truth… mostly)
  • the broken promise of a politician you support
  • the charitable manner of the politician you oppose/despise
  • a mistake in spite of preparation

Find a way to show the cracks in perfection and your readers will love your work, and moreover, they’ll believe it.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.

~Leonard Cohen

Image by tanakawho (cc cropped, text added)

One Response to “How to enhance the realism of a description”

  1. Marty says:


    Yes, I agree! We are all human and flawed. There is comfort in being able to see other’s cracks in perfection. Great relief comes from knowing I don’t have to be perfect. Do you think we in America are more perfectionistic than those in other countries?

    Brave, but flawed,