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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Narrative Writing Guide

<span style=”color: #000000;”>Narrative Writingspan>

<span style=”color: #000000;”>By Gwyn E. d’Pouh Green

Are you in the mood to kill your brother-in-law but he is a big, mean, SOB and you aren’t sure you can? Are short on bond money? Can’t run very fast anymore? Then narrative writing might be just what you need. Why not write a narrative about killing your bro? Change up the names and all that. You can even slow narrate the gory parts if you want to and it makes you feel better. In fact, you can do anything you can imagine in narrative writing. Once your brother—in-law is written out of the picture, you can massacre your whole family if they need it but only in your imagination of course! Simply put, narrative writing is writing that tells a story, and it is up to the writer to decide what that story will be.

There are several types of narrative writing that you might use to tell your story: historical, biographical, and personal narrative, which is divided into the nonexpository personal narrative and the expository personal narrative. Factual narratives tell what actually happened while fictional narratives tell what the writer imagined happened. Examples of factual narrative are news stories (some of them anyway) and articles in magazines and professional journals. Examples of fictional narratives range from simple fairy tales told to children at bedtime all the way to the alibi you gave your partner for being out late last weekend, and are often just as fantastic. Read ahead and learn which narrative type will best convey the mayhem and savagery of your own story.

Historical narrative, then relates past events and treats them as objectively as possible, maintaining a sense of distance through use of tone and telling the story of these events with exact, accurate historical detail.

An example of historical narrative from follows.

“The Matterhorn, located on the Swiss-Italian border, is one of the world’s most famous mountains. However, its history, as far as mountain climbing is concerned, is fairly recent and fairly brief.”

Andre Ernst

The biographical narrative is of course a story about a person’s life. Stories told in this form usually focus on three things: 1. when something happened to the subject of the narrative; 2. where the subject was when the event occurred; and 3. why the event was important to the subject’s life.

This sample of biographical narrative is written by Richard H, Leggett about Joe Louis:

“Joe Louis, one of America’s most famous boxers, was born Joseph Louis Barrow on May 13, 1914 near Lafayette, Alabama. In 1921, he and his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. In 1933 and 1934, Louis entered the National A. A. U. boxing tournaments; he won the light-heavyweight title in 1934.”

The personal, or autobiographical, narrative has two general types, expository and nonexpository. Note that dialog, with its powerful ability to characterize and evoke place and time, is a useful tool in narration, adding interest and urgency to the story. If you have an “ear” for dialog, then use it, including such speech tags and vernacular as you can recall. The nonexpository personal narrative tells a story’s events in a linear fashion, but still needs a controlling idea to bind it together.

An example of nonexpository personal narrative taken from the larger work “Bells in the Night” by George Allen Simpson.

“A telephone ringing at about 3:00am has become such a thing with me over the years that I have developed an unconscious ritual in answering Ma Bell’s constant reminder of the joys of technological convenience. I am usually conscious after the first ring. My first thought is always that maybe my wife will answer the thing and break a twenty-year habit of sleeping though everything from two tornadoes to a small-scale war.”

This following example of expository narrative highlights the differences between it and the nonexpository personal narrative. The expository narrative tells not only what happened as the nonexpository narrative does, but the expository narrative also sets out an idea to be developed. Now, typically, idea development is best accomplished with a more formal writing type such as by example or by illustration. However, since the idea is personal and may be developed by informal or general points, the expository personal narrative form is appropriate.

This passage written by Jerry Winger called “the Mountain Climber” is a good example of this sort of personal narrative that tells a story and develops an idea:

“In the face of reality, dreams often change. One of my oldest dreams was to climb a mountain and to experience firsthand what goes through a person’s mind after he ‘conquers’ a mountain. One bright sunshiny morning, many months ago, I arranged to go mountain climbing with two of my friends. Envisioning myself on top of Mt. Everest, yodeling into the crisp wind, I never had a twinge of fear.”

Mind that you choose the right type of narrative to fit your story. Your idea are precious and unique. Rhetorical is simply a vehicle for your thoughts. Whatever the manner in which you choose tell your story, no matter what your story is, no matter who your story incriminates or may upset, tell it. Writing is the most power occupation of human beings.

Since narrative writing tells a story, it needs a lot of action, and it thrives on verbs, so use as many as you like. Topics for narrative writing vary widely since nearly any good story is a narrative. When brainstorming to come up with topics, try for topics that are vivid in your mind. If you recall an event vividly, you have a better chance at retelling it well.

For your edification, here are a few narrative writing prompts to get your narrative started.

  1. My brother-in-law had to die because. . .
  2. I learned that the saying that goes, “A friend will help you, but a real friend will help you hide the bodies” is true when. . .
  3. One time this guy told me that my car wouldn’t go over 85mph, and boy oh boy, was he ever. . .
  4. When Conestoga wagons full of settlers were rolling across the Kansas tallgrass prairie. . .
  5. I will never forget the night when I . . .
  6. The moment in life that I will never forget was when. . .
  7. My most famous last words were. . .
  8. My husband/wife/partner has this crazy idea that. . .and it got us in big trouble when. . .
  9. I have this uncle who. . .
  10. My friend took me to see. . .
  11. I didn’t know it was illegal at the time, but. . .
  12. My mother always told me. . .
  13. I knew there were risks, but I . . .

 

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The Only Twelve and a Half Writing Rules You Will Ever Need

The Only Twelve and a Half Writing Rules You Will Ever Need

  1. If you write every day, you get better at writing every day.
  2. If it is boring to you, it is boring to your reader.
  3. Get a writing routine and stick with it.
  4. Poetry does not have to rhyme. Poetry does not have to rhyme.
  5. Resist stereotypes in your writing and in your life.
  6. Writers read. Writers read a lot. Writers read all the time.
  7. Make lists of your favorite words and books and places and things.
  8. There doesn’t always have to be a moral to the story.
  9. Always bring your notebook. Always bring a spare pen.
  10. Go for walks.   Pull weeds.  Do the dishes.  Write about it.
  11. Don’t settle on just one style. Try something new.
  12. Learn to tell both sides of the story.

½. Stop looking at this poster.  Write something!

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