Descriptive Writing: Conventions of the Form

Descriptive Writing: Conventions of the Form

Understanding the Form

  • Descriptive writing aims to paint a vivid picture allowing the reader to imagine being in the scene.
  • The prime focus is on the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Use these to make the reader feel as though they are experiencing the scene firsthand.
  • Rich sensory details create a tangible and believable world for the reader.
  • Utilise figurative language like metaphors, similes, and personification to add both intrigue and depth.

Language Usage

  • Use strong adjectives, verbs and adverbs to illustrate your description. Instead of saying “the car moved quickly,” you might say “the sports car darted swiftly down the street.”
  • Vary sentence structures to ensure your writing remains intriguing to the reader. Use a mix of complex and simple sentences, varying the opening words for effect.
  • Make use of a thesaurus to diversify your vocabulary, but be careful to only use words you understand fully; misused vocabulary can confuse the reader.

Setting and Characters

  • Describe the setting in detail, making use of the five senses to paint a vivid picture. Describe the appearance, atmosphere, sounds, smells and feel of the location.
  • Indicate the time of day and weather subtly, incorporating them naturally into the description so as not to disrupt the flow of the narrative.
  • Character descriptions should convey their physical appearance, but also hint at their personality and emotions. Rather than stating these explicitly, illustrate them through their actions, choices and dialogues.
  • Body language is just as revealing as physical description. Gestures, facial expressions, and postures can relate the mood and convey hidden messages.

Creating Mood and Atmosphere

  • The use of descriptive techniques such as metaphors, similes, and onomatopoeia contribute greatly to creating a certain mood or atmosphere.
  • Be cautious with word choice. Each word carries an emotional load and could affect the tone and mood of the piece. Pick words that reinforce the mood you want to project.
  • Show don’t tell. Instead of saying “it was a creepy place”, say “the trees cast long, gnarled shadows that danced eerily in the moonlight”.

Reviewing Your Work

  • Proofread your writing multiple times to catch any spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors.
  • Seek external feedback. Someone who is not involved in your writing might spot elements that are unclear or redundant.
  • Step away from your writing for a little while before proofreading - this will give you fresh eyes and make it easier to spot mistakes.