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Quick Course: Descriptive Writing



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Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:06 pm
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AlfredSymon says...



Quick Course: Descriptive Writing
By Alfred Symon


Have you tried writing a story set in a vast magical world? Or an essay of a very colorful and noisy festival? Or maybe a letter to your mother about how you are living with your Uncle in the farm? Well, whatever you are trying to write, there is always something, someone, some time or some place that needs to be given description. That’s where descriptive writing comes in. Let’s discover the dos and don’ts of this writing technique in this quick course!

***


What is descriptive writing?
Descriptive writing is a way of writing in which you express what you saw, heard, tasted, smelled and felt from something, someone, some time or some place with words which tackle or appeal the five senses. Virginia Hamilton of Scholastic described descriptive writing as:
“Capturing an event through descriptive writing involves paying close attention to the details by using all of your five senses.”
True enough, you need to pay close attention to everything you see, hear, taste, smell and feel. The five senses are the fundamentals of descriptive writing, and it is a special talent if you can apply those senses in your imagination. This guide is sure to help you with that!

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Where can I use this technique?
EVERYTHING! Yes, everything from essay to short story. What differs is the degree of usage in each. For example, in a short story, every detail can be given to a place or character, but the descriptions should be imaginative and figurative to induce the effect. In an essay, more detail the better, but it should be more precise and creatively spoken. In poetry, figurative speaking must revolve around the descriptions to add imagery and class. You can even use this in letters and blog entries where you are pulled to tell something about your life, in which you need to describe.

***


Why should I use this technique?
Descriptive writing is the best way of writing if you want to fully express your perspective. If you want other people to sense what you’ve sensed, then this writing’s the best!

***


How can I write in descriptive form?
For myself, I developed a step-by-step process for descriptive writing which includes the principles of Five-Sense Design. Let me share this with all of you!

1.) Be in that time and place. Pay a visit to your consciousness! When you’re writing from memory, be in that memory! For example, you want to tell something about your first day of school; it might be hard, but go back to that memory, and be the one who’s walking and speaking and doing the action. This also goes the same when you’re writing from your imagination. If you want to write something in which you’re character is in a fantasy world, then imagine that you are in the world. Do this in first and third person views for more feedbacks from the senses.

2.) Apply the Five-Sense Design! What do you see, hear, taste, smell and feel? That is what Five-Sense Design is. As you walk and do several actions in your consciousness, try your best to remember in detail what you see (A tree? A rock?), what you hear (A thunder rumbling?), what you taste (Is it sweet or sour?), what you smell (Fragrant flowers? Smelly trash?) and what you feel (Soft pillows? Hot pot?). The following is the things to consider for the Five-Sense Design:
 Sight  Color, quality, size, age, number, status etc.
 Hear Volume, quality, pleasantness, tempo, feel, emotion etc.
 Taste Sweet, bitter, dry, sour, spicy, what it tastes like
 Smell Pleasant or unpleasant, what it smells like
 Feel Texture, temperature etc.

3.) Choose which words describe best your perception. For example, in your perception, the sand in the beach you went through was very rough. Don’t just say rough, use another word that is closer to the perception you had. Is it grainy? Is it rocky? A thesaurus can be of good use here, but be sure to use words that accords to the degree of your perception.

4.) Write, describe and design! As this step suggests, write all those things you’ve detected, describe them and order them in accordance to the perception you want your readers to know! Now, how to describe effectively. Keep in mind how your readers perceive your views. If you have a fantasy world with two continents, one small and one vast, in mind, don’t only state that it has two continents, describe the continents too! In other words, try to be specific. But don’t be too specific! Describe everything that you think will help the readers understand your statement or story more. Include the things you considered from the Five-Sense Design and then sequence the descriptions base on what you want to be perceived.

5.) Use figurative speech in describing to add interest into your piece and to provoke the imagination of your reader’s mind.

***


Let’s review some situation-specific examples

Here’s an example of a paragraph describing a place from a descriptive essay:
“It’s been a while since I’ve been to the city park. I can still remember the dusty paths around the park scurried by squirrels and the smell of the profusion of ghost white daisies that line the red brick borders of the park. Warm rays of sunlight, which passed through the gaps made by the branches of the trees, used to comfort me when I sit on the low benches beside the fountain. The flowing water sounded like a symphony of cascading rain. I even remember the time when I snuck up the lone willow tree at the park’s center to steal some sweet-tasting honey from the beehive. But everything’s gone now…”


Let’s review this paragraph. As you can see, all the five senses have been used here. The colors of the flowers provoked the sense of sight. The flowing water tackled hearing. Sweet honey affected the sense of taste while the dusty path alerted the sense of feeling. Not only that, some figures of speech are visible. “sounded like a symphony” is a simile. Five Sense-Design, check!

Here’s an example of a paragraph describing a person from a descriptive story:
“She was an angel. Her eyes were deep blue oceans, sclera as white as snow. Her skin, smooth as glass; her lips, luscious as red cherries. The fragrance of wilt roses dance around her body…I am never to hear her lovely voice again.”


Five-Sense Design, check! Nothing to doubt about the use of figurative speech here, too!

So, these would be great examples of descriptive writing. But remember, I cut a lot out of these paragraphs. Descriptive writing is usually mixed with Narrative writing. A paragraph will seem disturbing if it’s only composed of descriptions!

An old forest, stretching from East to West end, sprawled over the Yellow Brick Road. The verdant trees, which seem to be from ancient times, towered up to the sky, clouds meeting their canopy. Grayish-brown squirrels scurry around the trees' mighty trunks. Rocks piles sat still seemingly watching the lone brook wash away its crystal blue waters.


I took effortless steps across the arid Sahara Desert; I am used to the rough rocks which line the path and the lumpy sand that go through my feet. I grabbed a handful of sand and felt its grainy smudge.


It was Spring that day. I knew it was because of the fragrant twist of floral scent from the blossoms, alluring the deer and the sweet-tasting, gooey honey gathered by the foul-smelling honeybees.


The thunderclouds swarmed overhead the mountaintops. Lightning crackles across the country with a loud BOOM! The townspeople screamed and shrieked in fear as they ran for their lives.


The graceful night sky spread across the earth like a vast blue blanket. Stars twinkled as they were scattered onto the dark sheets of misty light. The soft purity of clouds echoed lightning bolts which smelled of fire.The air tasted funny; something will happen this peaceful night.


The examples above are focused on natural settings. In these kind of paragraphs, weather, time and other natural factors should affect your descriptions. Also, if you noticed, the paragraphs are focused on a specific sense. Have you noticed the sense appealed by each paragraph?

***


I need to know more! But where?
There are a lot of writing workshops out there where you can join. There are also modules and lectures about descriptive writing. You can also learn from other co-writers and friends, as they can see and review your work. You are the only person who can develop yourself ‘cause learning depends on how much you want to learn. Be inquisitive! There are a lot of places to get some more help in writing! Good luck!

Now that you know the fundamentals of descriptive writing, go and write your own descriptive piece!


Brought to you by your Quick Critic,
Al
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Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:43 am
zohali93 says...



what if you dont know what specific words to use. eg walked, saunterd, waltz ...stuff like that. where do you get the vocabulary?
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Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:48 am
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AlfredSymon says...



The Thesaurus will be a good friend! For example, search the word walk and the thesaurus will show you which words are related to walk, this includes sauntered etc. And before you use a word to denote an action, for example, 'waltz', be sure to KNOW what the word means or looks like first so you will get a great feedback from the scene.
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Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:19 pm
zohali93 says...



do you know a good one online? i tried it but it's hard for me to get things to show types of voices. like when someone's speaking in an angry or sad or whatever voice.

like this:
"What do you want!" she sad angrily.
isn't there any other word to use besides angrily? i tried the thesaurus online but maybe i'm using it wrong...
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Mon Apr 02, 2012 2:58 am
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Rosendorn says...



I find single words attempting to display emotions highly weak, so I'd suggest not using them at all.

Instead, describe vocal tone, facial expressions, gestures, or anything else that shows she is saying it angrily.

The thing to remember is that everybody has a different display of emotions. When I get angry, my lips get in a very tight line, I stand perfectly straight, and I apparently give off an air of "do not disturb" for about twenty minutes before simply being a little tense and talking about it while smiling like people had better watch out (my voice is a tiny bit louder than normal, or much softer if you catch me in the 20 minutes of "do not disturb"). A friend of mine gets very emotional, lashes out, swears like a sailor, and raises his tone of voice to near shouting.

See what I mean about different reactions?

One of the ways to make characters come alive is to use these differences in emotional expression do your advantage. Don't just say they're angry— show it through their body language and voice tones.
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Mon Apr 02, 2012 3:17 am
AlfredSymon says...



Ms. Rosey's right, describing what actually happens can give a good point. Don't settle with all the emotions!
Last edited by AlfredSymon on Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mon Apr 02, 2012 3:44 am
zohali93 says...



wow. it's just that i don't know the right words to use. i get what tou mean. thanks :D
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Mon Apr 02, 2012 12:33 pm
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Rosendorn says...



alfredsymon wrote:Stella's right, describing what actually happens can give a good point. Don't settle with all the emotions!


Stella? ;)
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Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:50 pm
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AlfredSymon says...



Hahaha! Ms. Rosey! I am SO sorry! :) I'm really confused between the three of you guys (Rosey, Stella and Rachel). I don't know why, I know your avatars are all different, but I keep shuffling your usernames :) Peace, Ms. Rosey :D
Last edited by AlfredSymon on Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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