Descriptive writing portrays people, places,
things, moments and ideas with enough vivid detail to help the reader create a
mental picture of what is being written about.
Description creates impressions through sensory details (touch, taste,
sight, smell, sound) and imagery. Refer
to pages 124-127 of your course textbook under the title, “The Language of
Description,” for word usage instruction.
Page 173 of your book lists “Strategies for Writing Description” as
well. Also refer to the “Description
Checklist” on pages 178 and 179 of your text before you submit your work.
Consider as You Write Your Descriptive Essay
of an instance that you want to describe.
Why is this particular instance important? What
were you doing? What
other things were happening around you?
Is there anything specific that stands out in your mind? What
sights, smells, sounds, and tastes were in the air? Did
the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes remind you of anything? What
were you feeling at that time? What
do you want the reader to feel after reading the paper? What
types of words and images can convey this feeling? Can
you think of another situation that was similar to the one you are writing
about? How can it help explain what
you are writing about? Is
there enough detail in your essay to create a mental image for the reader?
Descriptive Essays Illustrated by Sample Paragraphs
Description: Let the reader see,
smell, hear, taste, and feel what you write in your essay.
The thick, burnt scent of roasted coffee tickled the tip
of my nose just seconds before the old, faithful alarm blasted red a distorted
top-forty through its tiny top speaker. Wiping away the grit of last night’s
sleep, the starch white sunlight blinded me momentarily as I slung my arm like
an elephant trunk along the top of the alarm, searching for the snooze button.
While stretching hands and feet to the four posts of my bed, my eyes opened
after several watery blinks. I crawled out of the comforter, edging awkwardly
like a butterfly from a cocoon, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. The
dusty pebbles on the chilled, wood floor sent ripples spiraling from my ankles
to the nape of my neck when my feet hit the floor. Grabbing the apricot,
terri-cloth robe, recently bathed in fabric softener and October wind, I
knotted it tightly at my waist like a prestigious coat of armor and headed
downstairs to battle the morning.
Description: Show the reader where
things are located from your perspective.
Billy Ray’s Pawn Shop and Lawn Mower Repair looked like a
burial ground for country auction rejects. The blazing, red, diesel fuel tanks
beamed in front of the station, looking like cheap lipstick against the pallid,
wrinkled texture of the parking lot sand. The yard, not much larger than the
end zone at General
High School on the north
end of town, was framed with a rusted metallic hedge of lawn mowers, banana
seat bicycles, and corroded oil drums. It wasn’t a calico frame of rusted
parts, but rather an orchestra of unwanted machinery that Billy Ray had
arranged into sections. The yellow-tanked mowers rested silently at the right
of the diesel fuel. Once red, now faded orange, mowers stood at attention to
the left. The bikes rested sporadically throughout the lot. In the middle of it
all was the office, a faded, steel roof supported by cheap two-by-fours and
zebra paneling. Billy Ray was at home, usually, five blocks east of town on Kennel Road.
Conventions, and Strategies for Descriptive Writing
A descriptive essay can be
objective or subjective, thus giving the author a wide choice of tone and
diction. For instance, an objective
description of one’s dog would mention such facts as height, weight, coloring
and so forth. A subjective description
would include the above details, but would also stress the author’s feeling
toward the dog, as well as its personality and habits.The purpose of a purely
descriptive essay is to involve the reader enough so he or she can actually
visualize the things being described; therefore, it is important to use
specific and concrete details.The descriptive essay relies on
concrete, sensory details to communicate its point. Remember, we have five senses, not one or
two.Description very often relies on
emotion to convey its point. Because of
this, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives convey more to the reader than do nouns. Select an emotion and try to describe it. It might be more difficult to get started, but
it can be worthwhile.Try moving your reader through
space and time chronologically. For
instance, you might want to describe a train ride from start to destination, or
a stream from its source to the point at which it joins the river.Use a then-and-now approach to
show decay, change, or improvement. The
house where you grew up might now be a rambling shack. The variations on this
strategy are endless.
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