The moon with its wisps of white light hung suspended in the frosty air over the still, quiet countryside. He could see in all directions, from the majestic outcrop of mountains to the vast ocean on the other.
The reader can certainly SEE the moon and the countryside.
- DESCRIPTIVE WRITING focuses on observation, is static, and paints pictures with words. Someone or something can be described.
- DESCRIPTIVE WRITING is about using words that give your readers the details they need to visualize what you are saying and become a part of your writing.
In a descriptive composition, the writer describes something to allow the reader to experience the topic being described as vividly as possible. Thus,
SHOW, DON’T TELL!
WORD POWER – Descriptive writing is writing with flair. It means using words so that they paint a picture for the reader, but doing so in ways that often surprise the reader. Those words and expressions are chosen carefully to achieve the desired effect.
Here are some of the tools available to you when dealing with descriptive writing:
USE YOUR FIVE SENSES –
Images of sight, sound, hearing, taste and touch can be used to make the description vivid. So to bring your writing to life and truly immerse your readers in the story, be sure to engage all of their senses. The key to unlocking the five senses is the question behind it. The question of why you are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or feeling something will help a lot.
TASK: Imagine you are walking outside. A spring storm is coming. Describe for your classmates what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
These are comparisons using the words “like” or “as” (simile)
Instead of saying:
- “The bread is hard,” SAY “The bread is as hard as a rock.”
- The surface of the moon is like crumpled sandpaper
These are comparisons minus cue words
- My tears were a river. I died with embarrassment
- Her heart was on fire. He hit the wall of exhaustion
These are words which describe or modify nouns.
- The tall, thin man entered the spooky room with measured steps. Inside the room deep shadows crouched in wait for him.
These are words which describe or modify verbs.
- The jets dived steeply out of the sky, tumbling rapidly as they maneuvered gracefully past each other.
PERSONIFICATION OR HYPERBOLE
They add interest to inanimate objects.
- Instead of saying:
- My heart started beating fast. SAY: My heart leaped out of my chest.
INTERESTING VERBS –
It is worthwhile taking the time to think about the verb for the situation you are trying to bring to life. Often, a carefully chosen verb can transform a so-so passage into something quite different.
- He ran. He jogged.
- He fled. He sprinted away/ He stormed off.
CHARACTER, PLACE AND ACTION –
The best descriptions have a focus. They aren’t just lists of everything in the scene thrown together. Try concentrating on character – bring it to life!
SHOW, DON’T TELL:
This would be telling your readers:
- He walked over to the stage and they gave him the award.
This, instead, is showing your readers:
- His feet felt like they were walking on air, as he glided towards the stage. An award like this was a dream he could never have imagined coming true.
Your readers will feel like a movie is showing inside their heads, because you gave them all the details they needed to truly “see” it.
Here are four tips that will help you add vivid descriptions to your writing:
- Use your five senses.
- Use figurative language.
- Have fun with words.
- Show, don’t tell.
TASK: Identify all the descriptive words and techniques used. Then, comment on the effectiveness of using such words in your descriptive composition writing.
Look at this . . .
- When I think of the home town of my youth, all that I seem to remember is dust- the brown, crumbly dust of late summer- arid, sterile dust that gets into the eyes and makes them water, gets into the throat and between the toes of bare brown feet. I don’t know why I should remember only the dust… And so, when I think of that time and that place, I remember only the dry September of the dirt roads and grassless yards of the shanty-town where I lived.
What about this one?
- The waves roar like a lion, as they hit the crumbling cliffs very powerfully. The white spray is thrown against the shore, and the vicious waves gnaw on the jagged pebbles. The wind cries loudly, weeping and moaning in the rain. The roof of the fragile, isolated beach hut is hit by the gales; its frost-bitten structure decaying in the briny tempest. At the edge of the jagged pebbles, where there are reeds and grasses you can see the remains of a snow fall which is like cotton wool. Colourless clouds carefully caress the horizon and a few brave seagulls fight against the fierce currents. Surely nothing can survive for long.
What’s wrong with the following?
- The lighthouse goes up into the sky. I can see its spotlight and I can hear it moving around. I can also hear the waves. They are moving back and forth on the shore. Sometimes the waves splash over me. I look again at the lighthouse in the distance.
Why is this better?
- The lighthouse soars up into the cold night air. The low grown of its rotating spotlight struggles like the moan of a wounded animal. Reluctantly, the waves retreat, sucked back into the darkness, then angrily return, pounding the foot of the mighty stone structure. The spray showers over me and my mouth fills with the cold taste of the sea. The lighthouse stands stern, a forbidding guardian of the shore.
So how did you fair? For you to get it right and become excellent, you need to practice. Take time to write and see yourself improving.
Good luck in your endeavours.
As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!