Awesome, amazing, great, excellent… What do they really mean in the context of a story? We know either the point-of-view character or the author either loves said thing or thinks said thing is better than mediocre. “The ice cream was great.” “The dress was nice.” While these words are fine in dialogue, as real people use them all the time, they aren’t fine in the rest of the text. These words are subjective. A reader’s idea of “great” might differ from the author’s. Look at the following two descriptions and ask yourself which is most engaging.
“The dress was really pretty.”
“Delicate cream lace trimmed the sweetheart neckline. Seed pearls and silver thread spun fanciful patterns on the tight-fitting bodice. The waist was cut in a deep V to emphasize her small waist before the satin flared just below her hips. The pale blue folds caught the candlelight and turned it to silver. Sapphire earrings, a necklace with a sapphire pendant shaped with an egg, all to match her blue eyes. The only thing out of place was the ruby ring on her right pointer finger, and hard to miss for its monstrous size; it looked as if its sheer weight might snap her small finger.”
The latter tells us just what is pretty about the dress. It also tells us a bit about the character’s tastes. The character is probably wealthy, or a very good thief with a very good tailor. She probably likes the color blue and pearls. Perhaps she likes to display her fortune, instead of opting for something simple. Or maybe she’s showing off her ill-gotten gains. And then, of course, is the mystery of the ruby. Why is there when every other item matches?
Now, this isn’t to say every last bloody detail needs to be described, but description can be used to tell the reader about the character and should be provided when important. Just, please don’t write an entire page on the way the sunlight is reflecting on a pair of spectacles. (I read a book that did just that. Well, to be exact, I read part of that book. I stopped shortly thereafter.) Too many details can be boring, but vague is boring, too. One needs to strike the right balance.