in English Language, Essay Technique, Writing Skills

Below, you’ll find a descriptive writing piece, plus my feedback about it.

Many of the creative writing and descriptive writing questions in exams require you to focus on an object, person, place or thing. In this mini-lesson, I’ll go through the basics of how to describe a place in detail – and not just in a boring way!

Lots of my students get stuck on descriptions; they tell me that they can’t think of anything to write. Or they feel like they can only just list details or features of the object without being ‘creative’. So, if this is relatable for you then keep reading as we’ll be breaking down how to go beyond basic descriptions and transform them into something personal, powerful and meaningful.


Descriptive Writing: What is it and How to do it

Thanks for reading! If you find this useful, take a look at our full Basic Descriptive Writing and Advanced Descriptive Writing courses.


Descriptive Writing Piece: Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

With boats perched aside the harbor, the day begins to wake as the rhythmic chug of boat engines slowly return. As time strikes 10 am, boats vanish into the distant sea. Across the ocean, you can possibly see sky-high skyscrapers – so dense, so diverse, so fascinating from its exterior appearance and its structure to the cityscape and, over time, became etched in my psyche as a kind of visual lullaby. 

Waves thrash the coastal walls with throngs of tourists. The street next to the harbor is somewhat versatile – with street busking, acting, or daily athletes running their routine. Paves are extended to a crammed street filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, boutiques – which are opened embracing tourists. A pungent smell of garlic or onion fills the air and diffuses. 

As night rose, most boats return to their slots as if it’s an automatic reset. The skyscraper lit up one window at a time, ever-changing through the starlit moments as if it were music for the eyes. Building lights hit the blanketed sea at night, reflecting various colors into people wandering on the harbor paths. Midnight closes all the shops and people leave wondrous spectacles on victoria’s harbor back.

FEEDBACK: 

This is a lovely depiction of the harbour – I’ve never been there but you capture it so well I can imagine how it would feel to be there. Some beautiful lines here! I love the idea of a visual lullaby. I can tell that you’ve made some very precise choices of words and images, with clear attention to detail with the way in which your sentences are conveying an impression to the reader. Your imagery is quite synaesthetic at times, which is an advanced technique! 

To improve, I would suggest the following:

  • Add in a range of extra language features – personification, alliteration, simile etc
  • Try to attain a tonal shift where the mood significantly changes in one of the paragraphs – this can go from happy to sad, dark to light, beautiful to ugly, or any other antithetical extreme
  • Work on achieving a greater depth of punctuation – especially the use of colons and semicolons is considered to be quite advanced. Stick to the same tense – either past or present the whole way through.

Great work, well done! 


Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, take a look at our full Basic Descriptive Writing and Advanced Descriptive Writing courses, as well as other English Language and Literature courses.