Isn’t it frustrating when a friend begins to describe a situation that happened and then says, “Oh never mind, you had to be there to see it!” This is the opposite result of a successful descriptive writer, whose mission is to guide the reader on a journey into a story that allows the reader to envision themselves at the scene where the events take place. In a sense, descriptive writers are word picture specialists that expand their writing into a graphic, detailed description. Kick vague, passive language “to the curb” in your descriptive writing, and opt for words or expressions that appeal to sensory images; sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
Descriptive writing is effective in all genres of writing: narrative, expository, and persuasive. Narrative writing tells a personal experience or a fictional story based on a real or imagined event. Expository writing is designed to convey information or explain difficult content. Persuasive writing attempts to convince the reader to accept a particular point of view or to take a specific action. Whether you are writing creative stories, poetry, a report, an essay, or a blog, draw on words that evoke pictures and feelings in the mind of the reader to connect with your subject.
One term that is not only useful in describing the name of a thing associated with a sound, but is also fun to say, is onomatopoeia. We teach our toddlers how to use onomatopoeia when we ask them, “What does the cow say?” The desired response is, “Moo!” Moo is a great example of onomatopoeia because it imitates the sound a cow makes by using language. Hiccup is another interesting example of onomatopoeia. The word hiccup was added to our language to describe the sound we make when an abrupt rush of air goes into the lungs and causes the vocal cords to close, producing a noise.
Figurative language such as metaphors and similes are another way to “punch up” description in your writing. For example: “The sunset was pretty tonight.” This a statement that most people relate to because they have witnessed a sunset, but changing the statement by adding more description brings the writing to a more visual experience. Add a simile by saying, “The sunset was like a kaleidoscope of orange, red, pink, and purple sweeping across the sky over masses of billowing cotton candy clouds.” This sentence brushes a vivid image onto the canvas of the reader’s mind, instead of just making a simple statement.
Next time you sit down to do some writing, keep these helpful hints in mind as you express your thoughts on paper or computer screen. Writers have the capability of transferring images to their reader’s by selecting active verbs, sensory words, and figurative language. Develop your descriptive palate and become a word picture specialist.