Lots of students struggle with descriptive writing, especially when it comes to making their descriptive pieces different from a story or narrative. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step process that breaks down how to plan descriptive pieces. Feel free to plan and write your own response to the writing prompt too! 

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Example Essay Question: 

Describe a scene where you are at a picnic in a meadow. 

When you are given a descriptive essay question, you need to PLAN. Without planning, you won’t get the grade that you deserve. As well as writing a plan, you need to focus on developing your planning, structuring and organisational skills – a good structure makes your ideas much better; a bad structure makes your ideas much harder to understand. 

Writing Structuring Planning Exercise

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Identify the keywords and focus of the question.

So firstly, identify the keywords in the question. What are the most important words and how do they shape your response? 

Describe – shows you that this needs to be a descriptive essay. You have to use all the conventions of a descriptive essay, including writing in clear paragraphs, using language features, paying attention to sentence and paragraph structure. 

Picnic – shows you the event that is taking place. You need to think about picnics you have been on or ones that you have seen in films or read about in books. Draw on all those experiences to create your own idea of a picnic. 

Meadow – shows you the setting. Think of meadows you have seen, either in real life or in books / films / tv. Think of the atmosphere and mood of your particular meadow – how does this setting influence the feeling of the picnic? 

Make a mind map 

Once you have fully understood the question, jot all of your ideas down in a mind map. Have the main concept in the centre of your map, and have branches coming off that main idea which are different aspects of your scene or topic. Then, go into more detail with each different aspect. It may look something like this: 

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Descriptive and Creative Writing Prompts

Organise your Thoughts into a Plan 

Make sure to use a logical, thorough structure. I like to use a funnel shape for most of my descriptive pieces — this means it either starts with a wide focus and zooms in, or it starts with a very close focus and zooms out to a wider scene. You can also shift through multiple points of focus, zooming in and out as it suits you and your topic.

You also want to think about imagery – use a range of visual, olfactory, auditory, tactile and gustatory images (all 5 senses) 

Example plan: 

1 – the weather – perfect atmosphere 
2 – the way the meadow looks – grass, wildflowers, scents
3 – wildlife – birds, mice, insects 
4 – the food – picnic basket, sandwiches, peach fizz 
5 –  the feelings of the character – joy, peace

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