Compare these two paragraphs:
“I rented a room in an old building on Broadway. The room was dark, and had not been occupied for many years. Dust and spiderwebs were hanging from every wall and corner. I went up stairs, and did not see a cobweb because of darkness. It hit me in face; it was creepy.”
“I took a large room, far up Broadway, in a huge old building whose upper stories had been wholly unoccupied for years until I came. The place had long been given up to dusts and cobwebs, to solitude and silence. I seemed groping among tombs and invading privacy of dead, that first night I climbed up to my quarters. For first time in my life a superstitious dread came over me; and as I turned a dark angle of stairway and an invisible cobweb swung its slazy woof in my face and clung there, I shuddered as one who had encountered a phantom.”
The first paragraph accurately describes setting; second takes you there, and puts you smack in middle of action. You see, feel and sense everything that narrator has experienced. The difference between two lies in use of powerful adjectives and adverbs. Effective use of descriptive words allows your readers to paint a mental picture, and transmutes them from passive recipient to active participant.
The English language is redolent with adjectives and adverbs, each of which imparts subtle shadings to objects or actions they describe. Yet, writers tend to stick to familiar. In process, their manuscripts lack verve and allow reader interest to wane.
Adjectives allow writer to expand on seminal ideas. For example, describing a train ride from Indiana Dunes to Chicago’s Loop as “relaxing, yet educational” doesn’t offer reader much information. Take that reader on your journey. Contrast differences between pastoral greens and sparkling open ponds of Dunes State Park to rotting hulks of abandoned steel mills ringed with razor wire fencing, burned out businesses and blocks of housing projects in Gary, Indiana. Give them a glimpse of rows of brick houses with neatly-clipped green lawns all lined up like soldiers on parade that you spot in East Chicago. Take them from barren expanses of Hammond’s oil refinery tank farm to magnificence of McCormick Place’s glass and steel glinting like a prism with sunlight reflecting off Lake Michigan. If your reader eventually takes this journey, they will have an immediate sense of deja vu. After all, you’ve taken them there before.