A descriptive piece requires you to describe an image in your head but at the same time there is a lot going on in that one picture. You need to choose at least three aspects of the image to describe for a simple five-paragraph descriptive or even narrative essay. At the scene of a fire, you can describe the actual fire that is blazing, the colour, movements, actions and something it resembles. The house that is falling apart can be another focus, the age, size, design, purpose and history. You may describe the expression on people’s faces while looking at the fire, those who are deeply affected and others who are there to spectate. The environment is also a strong aspect as it is filled with smoke, on-lookers and sorrowful screams.
A combination of literal and figurative language is crucial to descriptive writing. Literal language requires knowledge of many adjectives and adverbs, synonyms and antonyms. Figurative language is hidden meaning through the use figurative devices such as simile, irony, metaphor and onomatopoeia. These word tools make your description even more colourful. Instead of telling the readers about the image, you can show them. You can make a comparison to the image you want to describe using the simile “the water was warm like a blanket” or metaphor “the golden medallion in the sky”. You may show contrast with the irony “she brought us to the beach every weekend but would never bathe because of her fear of sharks”. The use of onomatopoeia in descriptive writing livens up your words as in “splashing of waves”, “thumping of the ball against feet”, and “high-pitched screams of joy in the water”.
When I saw the dove soar high above my home, I immediately knew that the worst was over (symbolism)
After the death of my father, I spent several weeks drowned in a sea of grief (Metaphor)
The ocean’s water is as clear as crystal (simile)
The night was calm. The only sound that could be heard was that of the howling winds (personification)
The Corona Virus Pandemic and lockdown era showed us tougher times. A normal 24 hours day seemed like a month, and months seemed to be years (hyperbole)
Describing an image revolves around appealing to the five senses. At the scene of a beach, you describe the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feels without naming the images for the reader. “The golden medallion in the sky” is the sun that you see. “The roaring beast violently beats against the innocent mountains” is the waves that you hear. “The fishy wind embraces our nostrils” describes the smell of the atmosphere. “The salty blanket slides on my tongue” describes the sea water that is not only compared to something that is comforting but appeals to the sense of taste. “The scorching grains beneath my feet” is the sand that you feel.
Descriptive writing requires you to evoke emotions in the reader by describing various moods that occur while painting a picture in your head. These moods must be described using many adjectives, synonyms and antonyms to make your description effective. At the scene of a fire, the mood of the persons most affected is traumatised, sorrowful, depressed and worried. The on-lookers are sympathetic, concerned, comforting and sensitive. The firefighters are commanding, determined, aggressive and exhausted. Other than adjectives, you can show actions that describe feelings. “The orange demon grabbed every memory” evokes a nostalgic emotion and “Tears flowed uncontrollably” describes sadness. By describing the feelings of others in an image, you evoke a similar emotion in your reader.
The structure of your essay is essential especially when you are given a word count and you are being timed. If you are preparing for an exam, there are 5 main factors to focus on which can be written in 5 paragraphs for your descriptive essay.
Paragraph 1 – Introduction: Hook for imagery of topic; context; thesis
Paragraph 2 – Body: Topic 1 e.g. Appearance; sensory details; actual details
Paragraph 3 – Body: Topic 2 e.g. Environment; sensory details; actual details
Paragraph 4 – Body: Topic 3 e.g. Emotions evoked; sensory details; actual details
Paragraph 5 – Conclusion: Rephrase of thesis on imagery; summary of body; closing
Happy, pleased, glad, delighted, cheerful, thrilled, ecstatic, jubilant, enchanted, blissful, elated
Unhappy, sad, miserable, sorrowful, forlorn, despondent, discontented, distraught, concerned, devastated, upset
Good, superior, fine, excellent, improved, brilliant, outstanding, exceptional, admirable, tremendous, splendid
Bad, awful, terrible, horrific, unpleasant, distasteful, obnoxious, repulsive, atrocious, disgusting, horrendous
Calm, peaceful, tranquil, pleasant, placid, cool, coolheaded, harmonious, serene, soothing, agreeable
Angry, annoyed, irritated, fuming, mad, livid, irate, heated, furious, enraged, frustrated
Brave, confident, courageous, daring, fearless, heroic, reckless, spunky, adventurous, audacious, spirited
Scared, frightened, afraid, terrified, fearful, petrified, startled, nervous, alarmed, apprehensive, hesitant
Pretty, attractive, good-looking, nice, charming, enchanting, stunning, handsome, gorgeous, beautiful, appealing
Ugly, unattractive, plain, unsightly, unpleasant, hideous, repellant, displeasing, repugnant, revolting, disagreeable
Big, large, great, immense, huge, vast, enormous, massive, substantial, considerable, extensive
Small, tiny, minute, minor, trivial, meagre, limited, unimportant, inconsiderable, insignificant, little
Build, make, create, establish, evolve, form, produce, assemble, construct, erect, set up
Destroy, end, abolish, terminate, crush, damage, dismantle, eradicate, ruin, wreck, smash
Increase, rise, grow, escalate, develop, expand, gain, inflate, boost, advance, intensify
Decrease, cut, reduce, lessen, decline, lose, shrink, diminish, depreciate, deteriorate, degrade
Narrow, thin, fine, slim, slender, skinny, slight, constrict, limit, lean, attenuate
Wide, broad, roomy, ample, outspread, spacious, sweeping, loose, extensive, expansive, comprehensive
Hot, warm, burning, scorching, boiling, blistering, roasting, sweltering, baking, sizzling, flaming
Cold, chilly, cool, freezing, icy, frosty, frigid, biting, piercing, numbing, shivery
Strong, powerful, tough, durable, steady, stable, sturdy, stout, robust, brawny, muscular
Weak, fragile, flimsy, feeble, frail, brittle, unstable, unsteady, delicate, breakable
Friendly, amiable, amicable, sociable, hospitable, favourable, cordial, welcoming, outgoing, approachable, inviting
Unfriendly, hostile, disagreeable. aggressive, unreceptive, uninviting, inhospitable, unfavourable, belligerent
Near, close, adjacent, nearby, adjoining, about, beside, alongside, neighbouring, almost, immediate
Far, distant, remote, detached, miles, removed, inaccessible, everlasting, perpetual, endless
Long, extensive, extended, lengthy, stretched, constant, lingering, elongated, prolonged, protracted, continued, never-ending, rushed
Short, brief, quick, rapid, fleeting, hurried, momentary, rushed, temporary, hasty, transitory
Regular, fixed, orderly, consistent, steady, usual, systematic, structured, efficient, unchanging, everyday
Irregular, variable, uneven, unreliable, jerky, sporadic, periodic, infrequent, erratic, occasional, rare
The use of sensory details in descriptive and narrative writing is another essential tip that writers should consider when writing their essays. This means not only referring to what something looks like but also exploring its sense of smell, sound, taste, touch, etc. With more abstract subjects like emotions, writers can include sensory details metaphorically. Writings that incorporate vivid sensory details are more likely to engage and affect the reader’s perception of the given subject. Nevertheless, it is imperative to note that not all sensory details will apply to every subject.
Love is like a crescent moon. It is both sharp and curved and firm and gentle. Its white glow is soft enough to ignore if you choose it but bright enough to make even broken glass glisten and shimmer like a treasure all its own.
Here you have examples of sensory elements based on the different senses.
Stronger verbs for «walking»
‘She walked over’ is perfectly adequate to describe a character approaching. However, here are some alternatives:
Descriptive verbs for «running»
‘He ran for the departing train’ is another use of an adequate but not particularly descriptive verb. Here are alternatives for the verb ‘to run’:
Verbs that describe stillness
Describing verbs for «standing»
Synonyms for «to speak»
Verbs for laughter and joking