When someone asks you to write a description for something, your first impulse might be to write about the experience itself. But sometimes, that isn’t quite enough. You might want to go further and describe what the thing is like from a literary perspective.
To that end, here are some of the most effective ways to write a description for a literary piece or an essay. Think of these tips as a guideline; you might not need to use all of them, but they are sure to come in handy when needed.
Put Yourself In The Story
A key element that gives a piece texture is the setting. You can draw upon your experience of the setting (for example, the time of day or the weather) or you can evoke an image of the place in your head (for example, a room with a red door or a park with blue skies).
Since your writing is aimed at an audience beyond your personal experience, you might want to put yourself in the story, so to speak. What does that mean? Imagine yourself in the situation you are describing. What would you see, hear, smell, and feel? What kind of person would you be? Take some time to think about that and let it inspire you to write about this experience in a more unique way.
When you compare two things or individuals, you are making a judgment call about which one is better. You could say that the younger sister is more beautiful than the older sister, or that the father is more charismatic than the mother. You are either comparing the size of one thing to another (the apple to the orange, for example) or you are contrasting one aspect of one thing to another (the warm tones against the cool tones, the father’s smile against the mother’s frown).
When you make a comparison, you are usually stating that one thing is better than another. This is an incredibly valuable tool for creating artistry in your writing. When you compare two contrasting things or individuals, you create a more interesting narrative. What is more, you give your reader/listener a view into your thinking processes. In other words, this tool allows you to explain your judgment about which is the better sibling or parent.
Sometimes, you need to put things in proportion. That is, you need to tell the reader/listener that one thing is less than or equal to another. For example, you could say that the younger sister is shorter than the older sister, or that the father is less intelligent than the mother. You can use this tool in several different ways, but you need to keep in mind that your reader/listener should not feel judged by your comparison. Take your time and make sure that you mention the factors that make the two things or individuals alike (for example, both are siblings or both are parents).
Exemplify What You Are Telling
Words are like bricks; they can be used to create structures and patterns that have specific meanings. Words can connect and associate with one another, based on the context and the presence or absence of other words. For example, in the sentence, “The grass was wet and green,” the word wet associates with the word green because they are both paired with one another.
You can utilize the power of words in several different ways. One of the most effective ways is to exemplify what you are describing. When you write, “The grass was wet and green,” you let your reader/listener know that you are referring to the environment around you, because you have described the grass. But you have also given them a window into your mind, by including the word green because it is this word that you associate with the grass and the environment surrounding it. In other words, you have used words like grass and wet to create a picture in your reader’s/listener’s head. You have thus, used the power of words to shape their mental image of what you are describing.
Clichés are often overused and underinformative words and phrases that have no place in creative writing. When you follow the advice of a literary expert, you will know exactly what kinds of clichés to avoid. In other words, when you want to write an interesting piece, you will not fall into the trap of using a cliché. Use words and phrases that are truer to the meaning of your narrative. For example, in the sentence, “The sun was shining through the rain,” you would not use a cliché because sunshine and rain do not fit. Yet, “It was sunny and bright outside” would be a cliché because it does not fit the narrative you are trying to portray.
Describe Movement And Action
If you are telling a story, you need to decide how the characters are going to move around and what they are going to do. You can use the present tense to describe an action that is taking place now (for example, “The man threw the ball”) or you can use the past tense to talk about actions that took place in the past (for example, “The man threw the ball overhand”).
To give your narrative a sense of speed and motion, you can use words that fall into the present tense. For example, you can say, “The man was running” or “The ball was flying around the room.” You add more detail to your description by using the past tense, because you are giving the reader a more complete picture. A complete picture is more fascinating than a fleeting one, so the past tense will always be more effective in your writing. Don’t hesitate to use it.
Embrace The Active Voice
The active voice is used whenever you speak or write in the first person. For example, “I ate the apple” is an active voice sentence because you are directly describing what you did. Alternatively, “Apples are delicious” is a passive voice sentence, because you are describing something that happened to you rather than taking action yourself. When you write in the active voice, you connect more closely with your audience and make your narrative more accessible. In other words, your writing will sound more genuine and you will make your story more believable. Don’t hesitate to use it.
Find The Human Element
A major part of creative writing is putting yourself in the story, but the other elements (dialogue, descriptions, and so on) are essential for making the piece come alive. If you want to write a compelling story, you need to focus on all aspects of it, including the characters and their interactions (for example, how they speak to and with one another).
To write an interesting character piece, you need to find the human element within each of the characters. For example, if you want to write about three siblings, you need to think of the ways in which each of them are unique and interesting. This will give you a deeper understanding of the story and will help you write in a more authentic way.
Avoid Fancy Linguistic Turns
When you want to write about the rich and the powerful, you can always fall back on the cliché, “They talk like they’re from another century.” That is, people from this epoch will have terminology and ways of expressing themselves that are not accessible to us modern folks. You can use this to your advantage, as long as you are careful not to go overboard. Still, it will add a touch of authenticity if you use the right words.
If you want to write about the environment, you can use a thesaurus to find words and phrases that evoke the nature you are trying to portray. For example, the Latin root of the word environment is not spieﬂetein (to spy). Instead, it is more properly translated as consequere, consequuntur, or consequor (to follow, to come after, or to seek). Using these words and phrases will help you paint a more complete picture and give your narrative a sense of authenticity. To use a thesaurus effectively, you must know its capabilities and how to access them. For example, if you want to write about nature, you might want to look up synonyms for nature, such as ecosystem, habitat, or biome.
Use All The Right Parts Of Speech
In English, we have different parts of speech that can be used to modify or alter the meaning of a word. For example, if you want to express the concept of sadness, you can say that you are sad or that you feel sorry, but you can also say that you are melancholy or that you are low-spirited. In a similar way, you can use the adverb modifier to alter the way a word is being used.