Descriptive Writing: From Boring to Brilliant

descriptive-writing

During an interview, the employer often asks you to describe yourself. When asking for directions, we often request the nearest landmark and don’t want to receive vague answers. When we shop for clothes, we usually describe to the salesperson the size, color, and type of clothing that we are looking for. In a court trial, lawyers frequently ask witnesses to describe the crime scene or the suspects. We may not notice but describing is a vital part of our daily life. And this particularly applies to writing. 

What is descriptive writing?

Descriptive writing is an artistic writing form that tells something using our five senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. Writers that use this style create a picture of a place, person, or thing in the readers’ mind through words. 

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Strategies of an effective descriptive writing

For you to be able to come up with good descriptive writing, you have to take note of the following:

1. Add sensory details 

Good descriptive writing uses sensory details which include sound, sight, smell, taste, or motion of a person, object or place. This helps you engage with your audience and personally connect them with the scene you are trying to create.

Sensory words add color to normal phrases. Let’s look at some examples of how sensory words can turn boring phrases into something powerful that will bring a lasting effect to your readers.

Without sensory words

  • That delicious dessert became her comfort food after her breakup with her ex. 
  • The smell of her cologne captured the attention of her ultimate crush.
  • The sweater that his mother gave was the reason for his allergies.
  • The noise of the car tires outside my grandmother’s home woke her up in the middle of the night.
  • This rainy weather makes me want to take a nap.

With sensory words

  • That mouthwatering slice of double chocolate cake became her comfort food after her bitter break up with her ex. 
  • The fruity smell of her cologne captured the attention of her ultimate crush.
  • The itchy sweater that his mother gave was the reason for his allergies.
  • The screeching sound of the car tires outside my grandmother’s home woke her up in the middle of the night.
  • This gloomy weather makes me want to cover myself in a warm blanket until I fell asleep.

Here is a list of sensory words you can use for effective descriptive writing:

Sight Sensory Words
Tantalizing
Foggy
Vibrant
Glossy
Shimmering
Sound Sensory Words
Ghost-quiet
Roaring
Squeaky
Crunchy
Booming
Touch Sensory Words
Ice-cold
Sharp
Rough
Slimy
Sticky
Taste and Smell Sensory Words
Bland
Spicy
Sweet
Bittersweet
Scrumptious

2. Use figurative language

This element in descriptive writing expresses in a more creative tone. It is often used to either convey meaning through alteration of words or to promote a new perspective by combining unusual words in the sentence. 

Two of the most common figurative language are simile and metaphor. Simile compares two subjects using the words “like” or “as”. For example, “Her smile is as bright as the sun.” On the other hand, metaphor uses comparisons of two indirect subjects. For example, “She is an angel.” 

3. Create a dominant impression

A dominant impression creates a mood or atmosphere that emphasizes the purpose of the writer. It is the most important element in descriptive writing as it gives a clear sense of what you are writing about and influences your readers of what you want them to feel. For example, you want your readers to feel that they are in an amusement park, you need to write a specific scenario with details to set the mood of what it feels and look like. 

You’ll have to avoid writing vague sentences such as this:

“I felt happy as I entered the gates of the amusement park. There are roller coaster rides, children running around, and a lot of food stalls in the place.”

Instead, you may state it like this:

“The magical flashing lights and the smell of the buttered popcorn welcomed me as I enter the gate. While I was busy looking at the slides and slopes of the thrilling roller coaster ride in front of me, a bunch of kids bumped me as they run towards the ice cream stall. Then suddenly, an icy-cold wind touched my face, making me feel the cool breeze of Christmas night.”

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4. Determine the patterns of organization

In descriptive writing, you have to determine the organization pattern you need to use for your particular topic. It can be in spatial order when you are describing a location, chronological order when trying to describe events, or functional order when writing a step-by-step procedure.  

Spatial Order

“She was running late for work when she realized that she forgot to put the important documents inside her bag. She went back to her room and found the papers underneath her bed. She was about to leave when all of a sudden, a dark shadow appeared in front of her.”

Chronological Order

“I went outside our house after finishing a full load of dirty laundry. I walked around our garden to look for our dog ‘Max’. However, I find no signs of him. Later that morning, an old lady came to our house holding our precious fury white dog in her arms.”

Functional Order

“With a lot of guides online about how to bake perfect chocolate chip cookies, I chose the simplest one. However, I still ended up doing a trial and error before I come up with the perfect chewy and well-balanced sweet cookie. 

Mixing and stirring the ingredients could be messy but when it is done properly, it will result in a well-formed dough that could give you smooth-textured cookies. When you are ready to do the baking, setting the right temperature and timer on your oven is also important as it would affect how soft or crispy your cookies could be.”

5. Be precise and consistent. 

While we want to create more colors to the plain stuff and avoid vague sentences, we also have to delete unnecessary words. Descriptive writing aims to provide readers with details but with a purpose. If you’re trying to tell a story about your latest summer vacation, you won’t need to describe every single person you have bumped into unless they play an important role in what you are writing about. 

Description is necessary to capture your reader’s attention and help you stand out from thousands of aspiring writers like you. It creates a direct connection to them that will make them want to read more of what you write. Whether you are writing a research paper, creating an essay, or simply writing on your journal, descriptive writing will always bring a monotonous piece into something extraordinary.

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