Descriptive Writing: Focus on characters

I have noticed that many of you are struggling to write descriptively and are TELLING. Telling is not describing: telling is merely observing something and then recalling it. Descriptive writing entails the ability to make your reader FEEL. Not make the reader see. There is a HUGE difference. In your work programme in the section entitled Writing; Section B: Descriptive writing, there is a very clear explanation of descriptive writing;

From page 49: ‘’You can think of the process of descriptive writing like this: If you say that the tree is beautiful, your readers are put on the defensive: “Wait a minute,” they think. “We’ll be the judge of that! Show us a beautiful tree and we’ll believe you…” Do not merely rely on adjectives that attempt to characterise a thing’s attributes. Lovely, exciting, interesting – these are all useful adjectives in casual speech or when we’re pointing to something that is lovely, but in writing with substance and fire and life, they don’t do much for us; in fact, they sound hollow. We cannot see the picture and if we cannot see the picture in our mind’s eye it means we have an empty image.

Descriptive pieces should always bring to life your five senses. The sensory images that are brought to life almost always create a distinct mood or atmosphere that allows the reader to feel what you intended to create by carefully enhancing the experience. It is important to remember that mood is brought about by carefully chosen language and isolated selected detail. Thus, descriptive pieces are not cumbersome; they should not be overloaded with a lot of detail, but rather carefully planned with selected detail and language’’

If you look at the picture below, it creates a very specific FEELING – what is the feeling?

Is it perhaps a feeling like; No connection? No connection is an abstract feeling that allows us  to feel something about not being connected. Then, we could ask; not being connected to what? People, Society, Nature – what? And in this manner we  can continue with bringing to life the feeling of the image; if there is no connection, does it mean people are disconnected, can it imply a generation is washed up, dried out and lacking any connection….the point is: can you make your readers ‘’see’’ what it is you feel.

I would entitle a piece based on the picture, ‘Shadow World’ and base ideas around this title that can be inferred from the preceding paragraph’s train thoughts. That may not necessarily be what you see and that is what makes us all original. If you are regurgitating facts only – this is NOT descriptive writing and largely lack originality. The picture is an example of for abstract descriptive writing or a setting, if you read carefully from the beginning, the focus is, however, on characters.

To recap: Whether writing a setting piece or an abstract descriptive or a character descriptive, essentially descriptive writing is the art of painting a picture with words. Descriptive writing is especially important for speculative fiction writers and poets. If you’ve created a fantasy world, then you’ll need to deftly describe it to readers. Lewis Carroll not only described Wonderland; he also described the fantastical creatures that inhabited it. In poetry, the challenge is to describe things in a way that is visceral.

Simple descriptions are surprisingly easy to execute. All you have to do is look at something (or imagine it) and write what you see. But well-crafted descriptions require writers to pay diligence to word choice, to describe only those elements that are most important  and to use engaging language to paint a picture in the reader’s mind.

In your checkpoint three textbook (page 44-45) you have the following example:

He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer, and what not. A big, loud man, with a stare and a metallic laugh. A man made out of a coarse material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him. A man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temples, and such a strained skin to his face that it seemed to hold his eyes open, and lift his eyebrows up. A man with a pervading appearance on him of being inflated like a balloon, and ready to start. A man who could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man. A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty.  A man who was the Bully of humility. A year or two younger than his eminently practical friend, Mr Bounderby looked older; his seven or eight and forty might have had the seven or eight added to it again, without surprising anybody. He had not much hair. One might have fancied he had talked it off; and that what was left, all standing up in disorder, was in that condition from being constantly blown about by his windy boastfulness.

In the formal drawing-room of Stone Lodge, standing on the hearthrug, warming himself before the fi re, Mr Bounderby delivered some observations to Mrs Grad grind on the circumstance of its being his birthday. He stood before the fi re, partly because it was a cool spring afternoon, though the sun shone; partly because the shade of Stone Lodge was always haunted by the ghost of damp mortar; partly because he thus took up a commanding position, from which to subdue Mrs Gradgrind. ‘I hadn’t a shoe to my foot. As to a stocking, I didn’t know such a thing by name. I passed the day in a ditch, and the night in a pigsty. That’s the way I spent my tenth birthday. Not that a ditch was new to me, for I was born in a ditch.’

The descriptions of the Mr Bounderby tell us more about him.

Answer the following questions in order that you understand how they make the reader feel:

  1. How old is Mr Bounderby from Extract 4?
  2. What do you think the phrase ‘metallic laugh’ suggests about Mr Bounderby and his interests?
  3. Choose four words or phrases from the passage which suggest that Mr Bounderby is a thoroughly unpleasant man. Explain as fully as you can how the expressions you have chosen suggest his unpleasantness.
  4. Explain what is meant by ‘the Bully of humility’.
  5. Give one piece of evidence from the passage to show that Mr Bounderby is a bully.
  6. Choose two descriptions that suggest that the writer is making fun of Mr Bounderby. Explain the reasons for your choice.

(Reference: 03 CamChck Eng1 Ch3;

Task: Describing Characters (please do this on your OWN blog and submit the URL to me via e-mail)

If you look at the picture below, it allows us to feel something about the character; the way he sitting, the colours, the way you think he feels, his thoughts, his stare and so forth. In 200 words create a DESCRIPTIVE piece in which you bring about a image of the character transformed in words.

(Reference to the artist: People Transformed Into Paintings by Alexa Meade