In our modern world everything around us is intensely visual and interactive, it's fast and bright, loud and twirly and the world is getting smaller every day. Social media allows us to see far more than we'd possibly ever want to into every single aspect of almost any individual's life. If, as writers, we try to describe the people and scenes in our book as though we are looking through a camera lens watching a film then we should be able to make the descriptions vivid and interesting.
If only it was that easy. We walk a careful line when describing the characters and scenery in our books - we have to include the salient points but we don't want to go overboard. Descriptions are also genre specific - I think it's safe to say there is more depth of detail in a period drama than a chick lit novel and should that chick lit novel be overly descriptive then its' usual readership are likely to switch off. I am turning myself off in attempting to describe the difference. Tricky stuff.
When describing objects we look at the physicality of them - relatively straightforward, providing we are trying to describe objects that exist. When writing in the realm of science fiction it gets a little trickier as often the items being mentioned are fantastic creations of a fertile imagination. It's harder to describe your characters on paper because you know them so intimately in your mind - oftentimes you can miss obvious things out but don't forget your readers aren't privy to the image in your head.
Our five senses help us interact in our world and will also help us in our writing. Taste - touch - sight - smell - sound can all be used to write superior descriptions. Keep your adjectives sparse and as always avoid adverbs, and alliteration. Clarity is key, if it doesn't further the plot then don't use it.
It's also worth remembering that the external look of your characters may not match their internal conflict. Each inner world is different for each character as well as being different to the world outside that they live in. We have to describe our characters relationships with their worlds as well as their inner struggles - not only what they look like but how they feel.
Workshop then went into similes, metaphors and onomatopoeia. I am not going to because quite frankly, if you don't know what they are then you shouldn't be writing. That said I don't write with these tools in the back of my mind, I just write. I suspect those things are sprinkled throughout my prose. Somewhere. Like chocolate chips hiding in what you thought was a plain cookie.
Beware of mixed metaphors. Beware of trying to be too clever. Beware of slowing down your book.