If you’re into creative writing, you’ve likely heard the quote, “Show, don’t tell.”
For many, it’s a mantra they abide by. Instead of telling the reader what the character experienced through an eagle eye’s view, the writer details the character’s actions, words, thoughts, and feelings through vivid and colorful descriptive text.
Descriptive writing is arguably the most exciting part of storytelling. But what is it, and how is it structured?
This article discusses everything you need to know about descriptive writing. I’ve also included some descriptive text examples to guide you.
What Is Descriptive Text?
Descriptive text is a text that describes an object, event, person, or location in detail. Its purpose is to paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind to invoke a sense of “being there” and actively experience what the character is experiencing.
Through careful words and phrasing, the writer shows the reader what’s seen, smelled, heard, tasted, and felt, creating a colorful world that’s almost palpable.
Descriptive Text Examples
Good descriptive text creates an impression, regardless of how brief, in the reader’s mind. The text should be written in a way that if the reader saw the thing you’re describing in real life, they’d instantly recognize it.
For example, instead of saying: “It was storming,” say: “Thunder rattled the windows, shaking the picture frames hanging on the walls.”
Instead of: “She made a pumpkin pie,” say: “The smell of pumpkin and cinnamon wafted from the kitchen.”
Instead of: “It was a bright, sunny day,” say: “The sun shone brightly in the cornflower-blue sky, surrounding the park in golden rays.”
Instead of: “The dog’s fur was soft,” say: “The dog’s pristine white fur felt like silk between my fingers.”
Descriptive Text Structure
There’s no real “structure” in descriptive text, but there are several guidelines to follow to fulfill its purpose.
In all descriptive text, there must be a referent; i.e., a thing, person, animal, place, or event being described.
It must also include several elements that directly describe the referent, such as its features, colors, forms, or anything related to what the writer wishes to describe.
Finally, the text must evoke the subject’s essence through the use of sensory language. It doesn’t have to directly describe the item itself; you can also employ literary devices such as metaphors, simile, and even personification to bring the referent to life.
How to Write Descriptive Text
When writing descriptive text, follow these tips:
- Use strong verbs to describe an event or action. For example, instead of “She walked to the store,” say, “She limped to the store.”
- Whenever necessary, use the subject’s five senses to describe an event or action.
- Be specific. Avoid generic terms and adverbs. Instead, use concrete nouns to create an image in the reader’s head.
- Focus on actions, reactions, body language, and facial expressions when describing a living being.
The descriptive text examples above serve as a guideline to help you describe a person, thing, event, or place more vividly.
Remember: Descriptive text isn’t only found in literary pieces. It’s also found in songs, news columns, scientific reports, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and guides. It’s useful in both fiction and non-fiction.