Descriptive Paragraphs

Elements of Effective Writing II: Form and Composition on Writer’s Online Workshops

Descriptive paragraphs should create a dominant impression for the reader based on description, whether you do it by appealing to the five senses, or by showing the actions of characters or the relations of items to other items, or any combination thereof.

Let’s consider the setting of an inner-city park. It’s your goal to help the reader visualize, without benefit of pictures, the scene in question. When you gaze at the landscape, where does your eye look first? Second? Third? However you view the scene is how your reader would likely see it as well, so you’ll want to establish a pattern based on that sequence. (Keep in mind that the less familiar your reader is likely to be with the setting, the more you’ll want to describe.)

There are, of course, many patterns from which to choose, but here are some to consider:

  • left to right
  • right to left
  • up to down
  • down to up
  • near to far
  • far to near
  • in a circle
  • or any combination thereof

The first few may seem obvious, but consider the "Z" pattern if you’re going for breadth and depth of focus at the same time. This pattern allows you to describe the faraway stuff (depth) and then travel diagonally across the setting (breadth) to bring the reader to the items of interest in the foreground-or the other way around, depending on what works best for your writing goal.

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