Features of Descriptive Writing

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Descriptive writing typically encapsulates a particular event, experience or time. It is highly stylised, with heavy use of sensory language, asking the reader to hear, smell, taste or see the story. Descriptive writing requires plenty of sculpting to provide the reader with the most vivid impression possible.

Dominant Impression and Mood

Descriptive writing always has a uniform or dominant impression that sets its tone and mood. For instance, instead of an author telling her reader she felt safe and comfortable in a particular situation, she conjures up a safe environment through descriptive phrases of the setting, time and perhaps other characters. A happy memory of eating with the family might detail how the author's mother snuggled close to her, how the sweet dessert smelled and how the worn but clean tablecloth set the background for the meal.

Sensory Detail

Descriptive writing relies heavily on sensory detail. The writer relays how a stale slice of bread tasted, including its texture or smell. A character describing how the breeze feels states how it smells and feels. A breeze may be warm and heavy, or crisp and wet, or even icy. It may smell like salt, dirt, jasmine or like the grease trap from the nearby fast-food restaurant. Write down exactly which smells, sounds, tastes and sites you or your character felt during an event.

Vivid Language

Descriptive writing requires vivid, specific, concrete language so the reader can easily visualise the action. The less your reader has to work to visualise the story, the more he grasps the story and can empathise with characters. For instance, the sentence, "It was a nice day," gives the reader no insight into that particular day. Describe why exactly the day was nice. The sun may have been shining indirectly through trees, casting soft shadows and warming the ground, and the crisp desert breeze carrying a smell of clean sand and rain.


Stay as organised as possible when writing descriptive stories, poetry or essays. You may get lost in sensory or emotional details, so outline the main points and events in your story to ensure every detail serves the purpose of forwarding the story and bringing the reader further into its world. Brainstorm before you begin writing, conjuring up as many vivid details as possible. Use a thesaurus to replace generic words with ones with more specificity and emotional or sensory power. Comb over your writing a number of times to make it as concise, concrete and descriptive as possible.

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