in English Language, Writing Skills

I’ve been writing a lot of descriptive writing fragments recently, so I thought I’d post them to help anyone who’s looking for ideas on how to plan a perfect answer. One thing that my students struggle a lot with is planning – how do you plan to describe something? It seems simple or straightforward, but it’s actually quite hard! You have to think of different focal points and try to incorporate a shift in tone, mood or perspective too. Below, I’ve broken down the planning process into several easy steps for you!

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STEP 1: UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION, CONCEPT OR WRITING PROMPT

  • What exactly are you trying to describe?
  • Is it a person, place, situation or thing?
  • What is your overall aim or purpose?
  • Think about the idea in depth – use themes to help you develop impressions of a suitable topic or situation to describe. For instance, you might connect your topic to the themes of love, war, friendship, death, or happiness.
  • If it’s a question, think about keywords and the focus:

EXAMPLE QUESTION:

“Describe a place that you love.”

This writing prompt contains a reference to setting – place – and emotion – love. This narrows down the focus of the question to a setting that is associated with personal positive memories.

Descriptive Writing: Nightmare World (Writing Process, Example Plan + Written Extract)

STEP 2: CREATE A MIND MAP OR SKETCH OUT YOUR IDEAS

Once you have your overall concept, start to flesh it out! Develop your ideas by thinking of different details and elements of your description. You might want to zoom in and out of a scene or focus on different parts of an object or person. Remember that it isn’t a story! So you don’t need to go too deeply into characters or make the description last a long time. Keep it simple and straightforward, but explore your ideas in depth.

Here’s an example of what this step should look like – these are the notes I took for the prompt above (Describe a place that you love):

CAMPING

The field next to a lake in a forest 

Morning: 

Camping smells: coffee, bacon, burned toast 

Mist from the lake through the trees 

Pine trees, branches hung low, dripping with needles, like warm, fuzzy icicles – the dew dropping onto the forest floor

Early evening: 

Rusty light in the evenings mottles the rough tree bark 

Tents glow with warmth and laughter  

Little robbin hopping from rope to rope 

Late Evening: 

Campfires and darkness 

Bright red van zooms past, breaking tranquillity 

Smashes through the undergrowth 

Blaring out loud, repetitive music – thudding, pounding 

The natural world is silent, in shock

Descriptive Writing: What Is It and How To Do It

STEP 3: ORGANISE YOUR THOUGHTS INTO A PLAN!

If you’re writing for professional or personal reasons, you can make your description as long or short as you like – but bear in mind that it should still have a clear, logical structure with shifts of focus! For an exam, use a 5-point plan. Here’s one that I made below:

1 sunrise – cold, silent, sleepy

2 morning – warming up, birds, light and energy, breakfast and campfire smells

3 midday – joy, warmth, play

4 early evening – cosy, dinner, settling down, smoke and fading light

5 late evening – shift in tone, the world is disrupted – people set up a party in the forest next door, loud music all night

Descriptive Writing Piece: Hot Air Balloon

As you may be able to tell, this is based on a real camping experience that I had recently – it was great but we were awake all night because some crazy people decided to start a party in the forest next to us! So if you base descriptions on real-life experience, they always have a lot of strength to them and they usually end up quite believable. You can embellish or tweak them to suit your own purposes, you don’t have to exactly stick to what happened – just use it as a creative starting point.

I’ll be posting the finished writing piece soon, so stay tuned for the final result of this planning!

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more support with your writing, you can access our full courses here:

Basic Descriptive Writing

Advanced Descriptive Writing

All English Courses

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