Types of Descriptive Writing

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Descriptive wriitng engages the reader's mind with vivid details.
Descriptive wriitng engages the reader's mind with vivid details. (Image: Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Descriptive writing describes a person, place or thing in such a way that the reader feels she is experiencing what is being described. The details in the writing vividly come alive in the reader's mind. Descriptive writing is found in all genres of writing, from the setting of a historical fiction novel to the details of a recipe.There are many types of descriptive writing that place the reader in the middle of the plot, scene, essay or article.

Vivid Details

Descriptive writing includes details that show instead of tell. Sensory details allow the reader to see, hear, smell, taste and touch what the writer is describing. "The cat walked down the street," does not include descriptive details. "The gray tabby slinked across the cul de sac" includes details that create a picture in the reader's mind.

Figurative Language

Descriptive writing often includes figurative language, or language that employs figures of speech. Figurative language departs from literal meaning to creatively make a point. This type of descriptive writing includes devices like metaphors, similes and personification. A metaphor compares two unlike things using the words "is" or "are." One of the most memorable metaphors is "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players" from William Shakespeare's play "As You Like It." In contrast, a simile compares two unlike things using "like" or "as." Ernest Hemingway used this device in "The Sun Also Rises" when he wrote: "The cafe was like a battleship stripped for Action." With personification, an inanimate object takes on human qualities. For instance, a tree branch grasps like a pointing finger or a dependable pick-up truck becomes a trusty confidante.

Strong Verbs

Descriptive writing includes as much detail as possible in as few words as possible. Using active verbs makes writing more precise. Linking verbs--"is," "was" and "are"--are not active. Action verbs--"race," "sing" and "dance"--create compelling writing. Instead of writing "she walked slowly," it is more precise to write "she meandered." Using strong verbs draws in the reader.

Writing from Observation

One way to put the reader in the middle of a piece of writing is to write from observation. If you want to write about a basketball game, go to a game and take notes. Write about what you see, taste, touch, smell and feel. If writing a narrative from memory, sketch the setting and all of its objects. If possible, visit the place where the action in the narrative occurred and notice the particulars of the setting.

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