As the name suggests, a descriptive essay deals with a topic in detail. In writing a descriptive essay, the author may wish to create a vivid experience for the reader, as well as employing the technique of showing rather than telling. Descriptive essays appeal to the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. When writing a descriptive essay, it is important to think about the different sensations you aim to evoke through your writing, and focus on what it might feel like to be at the scene.
The key to writing a good descriptive essay is to focus on sensory experiences. Imagine your readers know nothing about what you are writing about, and describe in detail what you see, hear, feel, smell and touch. Your descriptive essay should be engaging to the reader and full of vivid imagery that helps the reader paint a mental of picture of what you are describing.
Consider these two examples. Which one sounds more descriptive, and how so?
The alarm rang so loudly it was deafening. I had no choice but to crouch down under the table, feeling extremely nervous and terrified.
The shrill alarm sounded as if it could shatter the glass windows into a million pieces. I crouched down under the table, ignoring the painful splinters on the ground, my heart pounding. I could feel the blood rush to my head.
The descriptive style can be used for many types of topics. Descriptive essays commonly capture the author’s feelings toward what they are writing about. The object of the essay can be a person, a place, a memento, a memory, a dream, or something else. Whichever you choose, it is best if you pick a topic that you feel strongly about, so that the descriptions and words will come easier.
Think about a person who you feel has inspired you greatly. How did you meet them or come to know of them? Is it a mutual relationship or do you admire them from afar? What is one thing you have in common with them?
Is there a special place that means something to you? Perhaps it is the street on which you grew up, the beach you first visited, or your alma mater. Write about what it is like to step into that place. Are the surroundings cool or warm, dry or humid? What can you hear at that place? Is there any distinct smell in the setting?
Do you have a favorite memory of something, perhaps your first vacation overseas? Or do you have a negative feeling whenever you think of an embarrassing incident that happened to you? Try to recall what happened in detail and especially how you felt in the situation. Describe the memory vividly, taking note of the five senses, and help the readers to put themselves in your shoes.
Consider an emotion you feel most sincerely and strongly. Have you ever felt like you were “on cloud nine”? Are you filled with rage whenever you think about someone or something you despise? Perhaps there is a feeling that means a lot to you, such as a mother’s love, friendship, sibling rivalry, or something else. Although describing something intangible like an emotion may be difficult, you can try to focus on what triggers the emotion and how it makes you feel. Comparing that emotion to a feeling everyone knows well often makes it easier for readers to relate to your story.
Do you know what it feels like to be the weakling? The one that is always left out? Well, imagine always being the last one to get picked for a team. Imagine a mother bird feeding all her young except for one, left to scrounge for food on its own. That was what my childhood was like. For years I struggled with feelings of self-loathing and trying in vain to find my worth. That was how it felt to be the middle child in my family.
Similar to most other essays, descriptive essays should contain an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Take some time to carefully think about the object of your description, and how you would like to portray them. If it helps, list out the points you are going to write about and string them so that they flow together.
For example, if you are describing a day in the forest, you may wish to move in a chronological sequence, starting from when you first set foot into the forest to when you completed your journey.
If you are describing a person, you could start from when you first met them – mention the first details that first captivated you about them – before moving on to the facts you later found out about them, when you got to know them better.
As with every piece of engaging writing, the first sentence of the introduction should contain something that makes your readers want to keep reading. Although the entire essay should remain compelling and vivid throughout, grabbing your viewer’s attention right from the introduction is definitely ideal.
Your introduction should also include some context that tells the reader why you are writing about this topic. Since the topic of your description is likely something that holds some level of significance to you, explain the topic’s personal importance and how crucial you consider it to be.
Of course, it is best to sum up the introduction with a short thesis statement to drive home the topic you will be writing about.
What is a person’s greatest fear? For some, it may be failure. For others, perhaps dying. Yet others may fear losing their loved ones. Well, whatever it may be, a person’s greatest fear is not usually a thing they like to admit. For me, however, I will gladly and clearly state that my greatest fear is none other than cats.
Remembering your chosen sequence for introducing your subject, go about the description in an orderly way, such as a chronological recount of events. Here is where you can go all out with vivid and engaging terms. If need be, split the body section up into multiple paragraphs so that it is easier to read.
One may wonder how such a fear managed to take root. Well, it all started on that fateful day…
Every essay needs a solid conclusion. Sum up the points you made and how the experience made you feel. One thing to keep in mind is the conclusion should not introduce any new ideas to the reader – only a summary of what you have already introduced in the body paragraphs. If you were to write about the gist of your description in one sentence, what would it be?
As such, it came to be that my greatest fear is not any terrifying horror, nor anything intangible or unseen, but the innocent-looking cat. Were it not for that incident that scars me till this day, I may have sung a different tune. So it is that the demons of my imagination scare not even the slightest child but I.
Oct 18, 2019