Deadly Good Descriptive Writing Guide

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Descriptive Writing

A lone writer slumps across a desk, cradling an old timely typewriter. White light fused through a green shade arcs light across a slice of room, gently illuminating the writer. Stale cigarette smoke and bourbon breath permeate the air of the small, over-full room. The floor is papered with partially used sheets from the typewriter, some crinkled, some smooth, some under the writer’s chair’s wheels, branded with tire marks. The cheap ticking sound of a Dollar Store battery-operated clock is audible when the traffic from the street below ebbs between changes of the stoplight. Yesterday’s cheese and crackers, or something that looks like it might once have been cheese and crackers, lays upon a chipped white saucer. A cigarette butt ground into a piece of cheese stands like some version of a flag.

The previous passage is an example of descriptive writing. Descriptive writing is also referred to as a word picture. Word pictures are organized around space, unlike any other type of writing, and they seek to provide the reader with a sensory experience of the topic of the writing. Word pictures may also set the scene for creative writing pieces. Writing and writing classes often begin with descriptive writing because it is one of the easiest and most useful types of writing, which is not to say that it is easy, merely that for some writers it can be less difficult than other types of writing. Note in the paragraph above that the most memorable and compelling parts of the paragraph appeal to one of the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Of these, taste and touch are the hardest to incorporate into descriptive writing, unless your topic is food. So, descriptive writing, then, is writing that paints a word picture using appeals to the five senses and organized around space because space, and what does or does not occupy it, is what is written about.

Descriptive writing is of two sorts; subjective and objective. In an objective description, the writer includes only descriptive information that any observer could see. In a subjective description, the writer includes not just the obvious physical details of a scene, but also his/her personal opinions and observations about it. Both types of description rely on adverbs, words that describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, and adjectives, words that describe nouns and other substantives and tell what kind or how many. Most writing requires spare use of adverbs and adjectives, but description is made of them, so use them as lavishly as you like in your writing, but, please, use them accurately so your word picture peels off the page and dances in the imagination of the reader.

Suitable topics for descriptive writing follow, but first, just a brief word on topics. The suitability of a topic is determined not just by what it is about but also by what it isn’t about. When working on your topic statement or thesis statement, remember to keep the topic narrow enough to fit into the page limit. For instance, politics is a whole subject not suitable for an essay of two or three pages, but Oklahoma politics since the ALEC and the Kochs’ money took over the State House, is narrow enough to fit into a few pages. One more time, health is too broad a topic for a short paper, but hospice care in Oklahoma since 2014 is narrow enough to fit into a short paper. By all means, write about anything you want, but make sure that you can give the topic the space it needs to be fully examined. Accomplish that by narrowing your topic in the very beginning of the writing.

  1. The best meal I ever ate was. . .
  2. The prettiest thing I have ever seen was. . .
  3. The thing I like most about my looks is. . .
  4. The most eccentric person I have ever known was. . .
  5. The best teacher I ever had looked like. . .
  6. My bedroom looks like. . .
  7. My car looks like. . .
  8. The Grand Canyon looks. . .
  9. The ocean is. . .
  10. My car is so dirty that. . .
  11. My most ugly boyfriend/girlfriend looked like. . .
  12. When I look at a painting, I see. . .
  13. When I look outside, I see. . .

By Karlane Kraner and Forest Green, staff writers

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Journal Prompts as Liquid Plumber for Your Soul

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Keeping a Journal

by Dunbar Green

We suggest writers journal like a chivvy, never letting an opportunity to write something down pass by. At a minimum, spend 15 minutes three times a week writing journal entries. Journal entries should be entered on different days. This type of journal writing involves personal interpretation, reflection, evaluation, summarizing, and the questioning of concepts, impressions, and ideas. Write anything you want to write. You may even wish to draw your opinion of an experience or thought. These journals have no set format, style or structure, and your pages should reflect that spontaneity. You may use pencil, crayon, blood, ink, etc. The journal is where you can let your ideas and interpretations flow unabashed and unabridged. Professional writers sometimes use journals to create and keep notes, and to jot down ideas. Journals are a place for written reflection, meditation and edification, as opposed to a diary, which is simply a recording of daily events. Try to ­write for at least ten minutes on each entry. Have fun while writing in them – get to know yourself; ponder life’s deeper mysteries.

Here are some suggestions of material you might consider for your journal:

  • List new words and concepts and explore them.
  • Write about the progress of your courses or experiences, people, and feelings; about what is happening and what you are, or are not, learning.
  • Respond to readings, both those assigned in class and personal ones. Write about personal associations as you read: your reflections, reactions, evaluations, etc. Paraphrase (restate in your own words, or summarize) what you read. Copy memorable, significant, or especially important passages and comment on them.
  • Prepare for upcoming class meetings and/or assignments. Write about the main ideas from readings and discussions. Then write about the relationship of new ideas to other ideas you have learned in this and other courses.
  • Summarize course discussions. Distill the contents of readings, lectures, etc. down to the most significant or basic parts). List questions, observations and any other comments you have about the ideas or information discussed.
  • Record observations and overheard conversations. Write sketches of interesting people who catch your attention.
  • Write for ten or fifteen minutes every day about whatever is on your mind. Focus these meditations on your new experiences and on your past to better understand, interpret, reflect and incorporate them into your life.
  • Organize your time. Write about your goals, aspirations and priorities, or list specific things to accomplish, such as what, when, and how you plan to accomplish them. However, don’t make your journal a mere “today’s to do list” -look at the bigger picture.
  • Keep track of a particular event or project as it unfolds over the course of several days, weeks, or months. It might be an event in the news, at school, at work, or at home.

Remember, the main thing is simply to write, and keep writing for as long as you can!

Journal Entry Prompts

You may write your journal entries on any topic you choose.  These prompts are intended only as suggestions to prompt writing for those people who want ideas.  If you have your own, please use them instead of these prompts.

  1. The best day of my life was when. . . .
  2. The worst day of my life was when I. . . .
  3. I hate writing because. . . .
  4. The worst injury I ever had was when I. . . .
  5. One time I really wanted to help someone, but. . . .
  6. I am sure glad I helped out when. . . .
  7. What I am proudest of is my. . . .
  8. For fun, I like to. . . .
  9. In five years, I will be/have/be doing/achieve. . . .
  10. If I had a bazillionmillion dollars I would . . . .
  11. I sure hate it when people. . . .
  12. I love it when people. . . .
  13. One thing I am really good at is. . . .
  14. My favorite book is about. . . .
  15. The best meal I ever ate was. . . .
  16. The prettiest thing I have ever seen was. . . .
  17. I didn’t get arrested that time when. . . .
  18. The thing I dislike most about myself is. . . .
  19. The most dreadful weekend I ever spent was when. . . .
  20. The way I spend a typical day is. . . .
  21. The worst vacation I ever took was when I went to. . . .
  22. I felt very out of place when I. . . .
  23. When I want to help someone, I . . . .
  24. I needed help when. . . .
  25. The most eccentric person I have ever known was. . . .
  26. The best teacher I ever had taught me. . . .
  27. The most significant event in my life was when. . . .
  28. My favorite political topic is ???? because. . . .
  29. I hate politics because. . . .
  30. The world would be a much better place if. . . .
  31. I would be perfect if. . . .
  32. I will be happy when. . . .
  33. I believe in extraterrestrial life because. . . .
  34. I don’t believe in gravity because. . . .
  35. I think other people. . . .
  36. When I graduate I am going to. . . .
  37. I like to write because. . . .
  38. The best book I ever read was. . . .
  39. The moment that changed my life was when. . . .
  40. My favorite pet is/was. . . .
  41. The mountains/beaches/forests are the best geographical feature because. . . .
  42. I like/hate to exercise because. . . .
  43. My favorite holiday is. . . .
  44. My favorite activity is. . . .
  45. I wish I had a giant, smart brain so I could. . . .
  46. What I regret most is. . . .
  47. One bad habit I can’t break is. . . .
  48. My best characteristic is my. . . .
  49. Drinking/beverages (anything)
  50. Elderly drivers
  51. What would it be like to live in a different time period? (your choice)
  52. Gardening (flower and/or veggie)
  53. Spring fever
  54. The perfect vacation
  55. The magic ink pen
  56. An unusual pet
  57. Boredom
  58. Soul mates
  59. The ideal house
  60. If you could be any animal, what would it be?
  61. My biggest fear
  62. In ten years, I’ll be…
  63. Fun with food
  64. My future car
  65. The ideal friend
  66. Alone in a cemetery (Halloween)
  67. What I hate about winter (or spring)
  68. What I love about winter (or spring)
  69. Rain
  70. Write about a dream and what you think it indicates.
  71. The color red
  72. My pet peeve
  73. A rainbow in the night
  74. My favorite animal
  75. The perfect job
  76. If I had more time, I would …
  77. What I hate about love
  78. The best things about summer
  79. What’s wrong with hair
  80. The most unusual experience I’ve ever had was…
  81. A sailing ship
  82. Watching clouds
  83. A blank piece of paper
  84. A locked door
  85. The scent of a rose
  86. Thoughts about reading
  87. What am I?
  88. The best day of my life was when. . . .
  89. The worst day of my life was when I. . . .
  90. I hate writing because. . . .
  91. The worst injury I ever had was when I. . . .
  92. One time I really wanted to help someone, but. . . .
  93. I am sure glad I helped out when. . . .
  94. What I am proudest of is my. . . .
  95. For fun, I like to. . . .
  96. In five years, I will be/have/be doing/achieve. . . .
  97. If I had a bazillionmillion dollars I would . . . .
  98. I sure hate it when people. . . .
  99. I love it when people. . . .
  100. One thing I am really good at is. . . .
  101. My favorite book is about. . . .
  102. The best meal I ever ate was. . . .
  103. The prettiest thing I have ever seen was. . . .
  104. I didn’t get arrested that time when. . . .
  105. The thing I dislike most about myself is. . . .
  106. The most dreadful weekend I ever spent was when. . . .
  107. The way I spend a typical day is. . . .
  108. The worst vacation I ever took was when I went to. . . .
  109. I felt very out of place when I. . . .
  110. When I want to help someone, I . . . .
  111. I needed help when. . . .
  112. The most eccentric person I have ever known was. . . .
  113. The best teacher I ever had taught me. . . .
  114. The most significant event in my life was when. . . .
  115. My favorite political topic is ???? because. . . .
  116. I hate politics because. . . .
  117. The world would be a much better place if. . . .
  118. I would be perfect if. . . .
  119. I will be happy when. . . .
  120. I believe in extraterrestrial life because. . . .
  121. I don’t believe in gravity because. . . .
  122. I think other people. . . .
  123. When I graduate I am going to. . . .
  124. I like to write because. . . .
  125. The best book I ever read was. . . .
  126. The moment that changed my life was when. . . .
  127. My favorite pet is/was. . . .
  128. The mountains/beaches/forests are the best geographical feature because. . . .
  129. I like/hate to exercise because. . . .
  130. My favorite holiday is. . . .
  131. My favorite activity is. . . .
  132. I wish I had a giant, smart brain so I could. . . .
  133. What I regret most is. . . .
  134. One bad habit I can’t break is. . . .
  135. My best characteristic is my. . . .
  136. I hate it when my teachers. . . .
  137. I love it when my teachers. . . .
  138. I learned the most from. . . .
  139. When I graduate I want to. . . .
  140. The reason I want XXX for president is. . . .
  141. I facilitate my spiritual growth when I. . . .
  142. I like English because. . . .
  143. The last good book I read was about. . . .
  144. My favorite magazine is XXX because. . . .
  145. I think XXX is the best poet because. . . .
  146. I like the songs of XXX because. . . .
  147. I like to research because. . . .
  148. I am happiest when I am. . . .
  149. I hate writing in this journal because. . . .
  150. The biggest fish I ever caught was at. . . .
  151. I do/don’t want to have XXX children because. . . .
  152. My best friend always. . . .
  153. I like it when. . . .

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You may want to buy a journal to write in or one of the featured scripted journals. We recommend you write your own story however you wish to write it. Click on any image below to purchase or shop!

 

journal

journalbugs

Paragraph Writing

Easy Paragraph Writing

<span style=”color: #000000;”>By Pea Green

Most people don’t know it, but printers invented the paragraph. Before the printing press (circa 1450), all books were handwritten. The scribes who drew the books embellished them with colorful hand-painted illuminations and wrote in different styles of calligraphy so the reader’s eye was drawn on from one line to the next and everyone was relatively happy with the reading arrangement. However, when Johannes Gutenburg invented movable type, and offset printing became possible, there were no longer any variations in the typeface and every letter in a word looked exactly the same each time it was printed. The absence of the scribes’ paintings and numerous unique calligraphic handwriting style made the text harder to read. Printed writing before the paragraph and other conventions were invented looked so:

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

With no change in font style (calligraphy letter style) nor scribes’ illuminations, text was just printed in blocks like the one above. Finally, printers began to decorate their pages with signs and symbols like #, &, and *, many of which are still in use. One symbol, the pilkrow, or what we know as the paragraph symbol, was often strewn throughout these passages to break up the solid blocks of type:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXPXX

XXPXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXPXXXXXX

Since it was also possible for printers to indent the text, it eventually became the custom to indent where the paragraph sign was, and the modern day paragraph, that so vexes writers unto today, was born. Writers soon began using the paragraph spacing convention, so handy and already present in the text, to introduce new subjects.

Nowadays, we don’t always indent because we might be using block style, so we signal the paragraph’s end with a space between paragraphs which means the same thing as an indention does. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that American rhetoricians developed the idea of the topic sentence, and with that idea, the paragraph was fully realized as a formal writing unit. Next scholars developed the idea of the introductory, developmental, transitional, dialogue, concluding, and narrative paragraphs as these types of paragraphs also were developed into fully functional units of composition. Despite all of this parsing and renaming, paragraphs are defined simply as a group of sentences used to develop one main idea.

Use this funnel to help write an introductory paragraph.

The introductory, transitional, developmental, and summary or conclusion paragraphs are the workhorses of the standard essay. Paragraphs may be developed by example, contrast, comparison, analogy, statistics, definition, and through analysis of structure, function, process, classification, and cause/effect. All well–written paragraphs, the only kind anyone wants really, must have unity, order, coherence, completeness, and appropriate style. Perfectly good paragraphs are both long and longer. The best guideline for getting the length right in your paragraphs is that each paragraph should contain exactly as many sentences and words as you needed to clearly express your ideas, and not one word longer or shorter.

To successfully write a well-developed paragraph, begin with a topic sentence. The topic sentence is like the road map of the paragraph because it names or implies the direction the paragraph will take and the information it will contain. Take as long as necessary to write a good topic sentence.

After your topic sentence is written, use this multi-use, generic paragraph template suitable for all paragraph writing. Note that the number of sentences and length of the paragraph are optional. Deeper subjects usually require more developing sentences, more supporting detail and evidence, and this results in longer paragraphs. Unless you are told otherwise, don’t worry about length. Fill your writing with necessary appropriately organized content. Complete the following paragraph writing exercise by replacing the sentences written in black ink with sentences of your own that follow the directions printed in green ink.

  1. Topic sentence naming or implying the subtopics in the paragraph’s content: I love my husband because he catches fish, cooks fish, and cleans the kitchen. 2.Transitional sentence that leads in to the first developing/supporting sentence or a sentence that simply states the first subtopic of catching fish: My husband catches fish at the nearby lake. 3. One or two sentences that further develop or support the topic sentence’s point/subtopic: The fish my husband catches are large and fresh. 4. Another one or two optional sentences that develop or support the subtopic with detail or evidence: My husband’s fish are crappie or bass most of the time with an occasional catfish. 5. An optional transitional sentence that leads the reader from one subtopic to the next: After catching the fish, my husband cleans them. 6. Transitional sentence that leads in to the second developing/supporting sentence or that simply states the second subtopic of cooking fish: My husband knows how to clean fresh fish because he is a great cook. 7. One or two sentences that further develop or support the topic sentence’s next point/subtopic: He has been cleaning and cooking food since the turn of the century. 8. Another one or two optional sentences that develop or support the subtopic with detail or evidence: My husband’s mother was a restaurant cook who taught him about cooking fish. 9. An optional transitional sentence that leads the reader from one subtopic to the next: In addition to cooking fish, my husband is also a diligent housekeeper in his spare time. 10. Transitional sentence that leads in to the third developing/supporting sentence or that simply states the third subtopic of cleaning the kitchen: After we eat the fresh fish he cleans and cooks for us, he also cleans the kitchen like he was Mr. Clean himself. 11. One or two sentences that further develop or support the topic sentence’s points/subtopics: He washes all the dishes. He sweeps the kitchen floor and buses the dining table after dinner. 12. Another one or two optional sentences that develop or support the subtopic with detail or evidence: He also carries the fish guts down to the holler and dumps them so our yard doesn’t stink or attract night creatures. 13. An optional transitional sentence that leads the reader into the concluding sentence: My husband has many practical housekeeping skills that he learned from his mother. 14. A beautiful concluding sentence that both reminds and summarizes the point of this paragraph, and in the case of essay writing, that prepares the reader for the next paragraph: I will always love my husband for many reasons, not the least of which are the care he gives me when he works around the house to make our lives better.

Please note that the paragraphing in novels and other pieces of writing demonstrates the range of paragraph length. Be mindful of how much you may learn just looking at books. When you are casting about for information on how to do any kind of writing, nothing has more answers than a book or an article written about a topic similar to your topic.  You can use other people’s writing as a model to pattern our own work. There is nothing wrong with looking at other people’s examples to get ideas of your own.  It is actually a time-honored practice.  However, you may not copy anything into your own writing unless you give credit to the author, and that is another article entirely.

Here is an exercise more appropriate for beginning learners.

This visual can be combined with the paragraph writing prompts that follow to create a writing assignment.
This visual can be combined with the paragraph writing prompts that follow to create a writing assignment.
Copy and hand out this worksheet.
Copy and hand out this worksheet.

Paragraph writing prompts

  1. My grandma/grandpa
  2. My favorite activity
  3. The best day of my life was when. . . .
  4. The worst day of my life was when I. . . .
  5. I am sure glad I helped out when. . . .
  6. What I am proudest of is my. . . .
  7. For fun, I like to. . . .

As always, Beloved Readers, live long and prosper.

 

For a complete list of prompts, click here.

Books to buy to learn paragraph development:

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