Descriptive Writing A descriptive essay tells what something looks like or what it feels like, sounds like, smells like or tastes like. You can use language to create a vivid impression for your readers. Your descriptions help to create a dominant impression - mood or quality – for your writing. Your descriptions may be objective or subjective. Objective Descriptions •Focus on object itself rather than your personal reaction to it. •Is objectivity completely possible? •Achieved through word choices •Use Denotations/ more direct, less emotional language. •Also achieved through selection of details to describe. •Exercise: Spend the next five minutes writing in your journal an objective description of your day today. Be prepared to share your results with the class. Subjective Description: •Conveys your personal emotions and response to your subject •Not expressed necessarily directly, but through your word choices and selection of details. •Should indicate the significance of the subject. •Use subjective language: connotations (emotional associations of words) •Use figures of speech to compare dissimilar things: Simile (something is like something else) •Metaphor (something is something else). •Personification: giving human characteristics to objects or animals. •Allusion: reference to a person, place, event or quotation that you assume the reader understands. Exercise: For the next five minutes, write a subjective version of your previous essay on your day today. Again, be prepared to share your work with the class. Selecting Details: In both objective and subjective writing, select specific details to describe. You might say, “He looked angry.” Or, you might say, “His face flushed, and one corner of his mouth twitched as he tried to control his anger.” Imagery: describe using details that appeal to the five senses. ******************************************************************************* Exercise: Look about the room: in your journal write for five minutes and describe this room. Give as many specific details as you can, and use imagery. You may decide whether to write objectively or subjectively. Be prepared to share your work with the class. Organizing a descriptive essay Options: Spatial order: describe an object or space as you move around or through it, from each perspective. Order of impression: what do you notice first, second, etc. Order of importance: what is the least important detail, what is the most? Whatever scheme you choose, remember that it must serve to support your thesis. Use Transitions Look at the list of transitional words and phrases on page 43 of your textbook. Professional model: Descriptive Writing From “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot. On the broad, level land floor the gang plows bit deep and left the black earth shining like metal where the shares had cut. On the foothill ranches across the Salinas River, the yellow stubble fields seemed to be bathed in pale cold sunshine, but there was no sunshine in the valley now in December. The thick willow scrub along the river flamed with sharp and positive yellow leaves. It was a time of quiet and waiting. The air was cold and tender. A light wind blew up from the southwest so that the farmers were mildly hopeful of a good rain before long; but fog and rain do not go together. Copyright © 2004 by Bedford/St. Martin’s Peer-Editing Worksheet: Description 1. What is the essay’s dominant impression or thesis? 2. What points does the writer emphasize in the introduction? Should any other points be included? If so, which ones? 3. Would you characterize the essay as primarily an objective or subjective description? What leads you to your conclusions? 4. Point out some examples of figures of speech. Could the writer use figures of speech in other places? If so, where? 5. What specific details does the writer use to help readers visualize what he or she is describing? Are there any places where the writer could use more details? 5. What specific details does the writer use to help readers visualize what he or she is describing? Are there any places where the writer could use more details? 6. Are all the details necessary? Do any seem excessive or redundant? Are there enough details to support the thesis or reinforce the dominant impression? 7. How is the essay organized? Would another arrangement be clearer or more effective? 8. List some transitional words and phrases that the writer uses to help readers follow his or her discussion. Do any sentences need transitional words or phrases to link them to other sentences? 9. Copy down an example of a particularly clear sentence. Are any sentences wordy or choppy? If so, which ones? 10. How effective is the essay’s conclusion? Does the conclusion reinforce the dominant impression?