A Guide to Developing Descriptive Essay Topics

There is a lot of room for fun and creativity in writing a descriptive essay. The process begins with generating various descriptive essay topics and venturing out to develop these topics in greater detail. However, writing a descriptive essay is not as easy as it sounds. You may think it simple enough to pick out a topic and describe it, but there are several descriptive techniques that many college students and amateur writers are not aware of. Simply put, a descriptive essay is not a hodgepodge of adjectives and adverbs that can be used to describe one thing. It is a structured and elaborate essay that aims to create a vivid and moving picture of what you aim to describe in the mind of your readers.

Below are detailed guidelines for developing descriptive essay topics.

1. Choose a topic.

Descriptive Essay ExtractPossible descriptive essay topics can include persons, places, objects, events, situations, thoughts, feelings and experiences, but you have to narrow these down to a single subject. Choose one that is not too broad but it should not be too specific either. Unless you have a very colorful imagination, do not attempt to describe something as simplistic as a comb or a hair pin. Try this technique if you are having a hard time: Brainstorm for at least five possible topics. Create a chart with at least five rows and five columns. On the left column, write down your possible topics. On at the  top row, make headings such as size, colors, parts, emotions, memories, etc. Fill in the chart and see which topic has the most interesting qualities you can write about.

2. Brainstorm for descriptions.

If you do not complete the topic chart detailed above, you may find it difficult to create descriptions for your topic. Start with single-word descriptions first, not minding that they do not yet constitute an essay of any sort. For example, if you choose to write about chocolate, you might want to list down words such as dark, bittersweet, milky, hot, frozen, powdered, creamy, comforting, delectable, sinful, etc. Compile related descriptions to help you create sentences and paragraphs out of these.

3. Go from general to specific.

You have to introduce the topic to your reader before delving into the details of your topic. For example, if you are writing about your bedroom, think of the general details, such as the bed, a study corner, curtains and a closet. Next, beef up these details by tacking on the specifics, such as a bed cover with piles of used clothes or a study corner littered with dusty books. By this time, you should have decided the order of your descriptions, whether you choose to describe your topic from top to bottom, side to side or front to back. It is always recommended to start from the general before zeroing in on the specific.

4. Show, don’t tell.

This demonstrates the difference between showing and telling.

Telling: She is beautiful.

Showing: Her eyes are a vivid blue, as the depths of the cold Pacific Ocean are. Her nose is small and dainty, with barely a resemblance of the strong, patrician noses of her ancestors. And her lips! Men would fall to kiss those lips, which were like coralline shells set delicately against a complexion as soft and smooth as untouched yellow beach sand.

Which one sounds more appealing to you? Showing does not entail you mentioning that she is beautiful. The reader already knows.

5. Use your senses.

Take the reader to your here and now of your descriptive essay by appealing to his senses. Do not be limited to descriptions of appearances. What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you taste? It is important that you go beyond the surface descriptions and explore the subtler impressions that are just as important. For instance, airplane noises and loud bangs are definitely very obvious, but have you included the wrinkling sound of a piece of paper being crumpled and the thump as it is thrown into the wastebasket? How about the slight aroma of lemongrass that hangs faint in the air after your lover has left? These are the things we hardly notice, but they lend invaluable insights into the kind of person you are when you are writing descriptive essays.

6. Share your thoughts and feelings.

Unless you include yourself, your descriptive essay will always be bland and unexciting no matter how colorful your descriptions are. Show your readers what you thought and felt while in a certain place. Describe to them the memories aroused when you smelled a faint lavender fragrance rising from the gardens. What were you feeling every time your body crashed against the monstrous, cold waves of the Pacific surf? Incorporating yourself and your own thoughts and feelings into your essay makes your essay entirely yours.

We hope these tips will help you develop really good descriptive essay topics for your assignment.

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