When you talk of things…you need to describe them in 3 dimensions, then the time setting, then the surrounding elements.
The clock on the wall was old fashioned. It had a second hand, a minute hand and an hour hand moving slowly around the circle. The clock was a plain white against the flowered wall paper in the kitchen. It was about the size of a small paper plate, but the numbers were big enough to see. You could see it from the living room, and though it was never accurate, it was getting close to dinner time. The cord snaked down the wall to the outlet which was above what should have been wainscoting, but was in fact just a different pattern of wall paper and border. The clock was covered in dust and grease from the kitchen. It might have had some sugar debris from all the jams and jellies cooked there.
The more words, the better the author has succeeded in putting you in the room with the object.
Now if you talk emotions, fewer words are better. Same clock, but now we’re getting the emotional side
The second hand crawls
The minute hand feels frozen in time
Slowly and relentlessly
He’ll be unhappy
The kitchen is not much different
than when he left
He will have been drinking
Will he hit me?
Will he yell?
Will I survive?
(Lest you get the wrong idea, I watch too many SVU episodes. I have known women who have been abused, and the clock is not their friend.)
See? You don’t need to know what size it is or what color. It represents an emotion. That’s why poetry is so difficult to write. You have to distill the emotions and get them across to make your emotional point. Do the emotions come first or does the object? For me, it’s the object. I pick one and think how I can use it to describe what my character is feeling. Others choose an emotion and look around for something suitable to convey the feeling. I wanted her to be experiencing dread and hopelessness. Another would have used those emotions and then stared at something else.
They were still high
Piled up on the counter
and some stuck to each other
I have to take care of kids
The drain is slow
He’ll be home soon
I can get the big things washed
The roast is nearly done
I’m scrubbing as fast
as I can but
Was that his car door?
“Kids? Get upstairs
and he smells funny…”
See the difference? You may get the same feeling but different imagery.
When you describe things, you allow people to relate to the objects, to recognize them as something they might have at home. When you describe feelings, you get the words out of the way and use vague enough images to bring forth emotional responses. Instead of picturing your clock, they picture their own or that of someone they know that is in a similar situation. In the other case, they might picture a time when they knew they were going to miss the deadline and the consequences would be considerable.
So when you’re communicating, remember the purpose of your communication…is it to describe something physical? or something emotional? Then you can choose the means to most effectively describe what you’re trying to get across to your audience.