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Descriptive Writing:

'Bridle' Your Imagination With Lists

 

Today's Snack: What's on most students' "wish list" for after-school snacks? Something sweet, of course. How about making yellow cupcakes and frosting them with ready-made chocolate fudge frosting? To have at least SOME nutrition with this treat, have a tall glass of ice-cold milk.

 

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Supplies:

Pencil or pen | old magazines

one piece of scrap paper and one piece of lined paper

 

Project the story prompts on a big screen or print out the lower

part of this Treat and share with students

 

Imagine that your imagination is a horse. It's big! It's beautiful! It's powerful! But it won't take you where you want to go unless you put a saddle and a bridle on it.

 

Just as we need to guide a horse in a purposeful direction, we have to guide our imagination to produce the ideas and details that can help us write a good descriptive story or essay.

 

A great way to do that is to make lists. The more details you can imagine and get written down, as quickly as they come to you, the more choices you will have for content when you choose what to include, and exclude, in your descriptive story.

 

But when you're thinking of what to include in your story, if you just write down whatever comes to mind, your ideas are not likely to be focused. Making a list ahead of time, and sticking to the purpose for your descriptive writing piece, is much more likely to produce the most interesting and relevant details.

 

Let's say you are going to describe your trip to the rodeo to see a buckin' bronco competition. Here are some details you might put on your list before you write:

 

Rodeo

Cowboys and cowgirls

Cowboy hats

Chaps

Sawdust arena

Chutes

Buckin' broncos

Dust kicked up

Rodeo clowns

8 seconds

Getting bucked off

Bruised rear end

Horses kick and buck

How cowboys stay on

Manes and tails

Winner gets a belt

Win prize money

 

Are those enough details to "flesh out" a colorful story, that makes your reader feel he or she was right there with you, watching the rodeo?

 

Lists help you keep organized. Lists help you remember details you might otherwise forget. You don't have to use everything on a story list in your descriptive story or essay. In fact, it's the mark of a good writer if you think up more things on a list than you can possibly use in your story.

 

But if you just sat down to write a story about going to the rodeo without a list, it would be hard to stay on track and make the description purposeful.

 

It's like guiding a horse around a race track or across a jumps course. If you take aim with your imagination, hold the reins, and RIDE it, using an organization tool such as a list, then you're much more likely to write a successful descriptive story or essay.

 

Now try it for yourself. Choose one of the descriptive writing prompts listed below. On the piece of scratch paper, start writing a list of all the details that come to mind that have something to do with that prompt. For example, what vocabulary words come to mind? List them. What colors, shapes, textures? What do people's faces look like? What place names or people's names? List ways that the people or objects in your prompt connect to one another.

 

 

Back in the Day

 

You are holding a family photograph. As you look at the photograph you are suddenly transported back into the time and setting of the picture. Imagine something that happened right at that time the picture was taken. Describe the picture, and explain the interesting things that happened on the day the picture was taken. You might want to try this in the format of a letter from you to another family member.

 

 

Far and Away

 

You have just arrived in a place that is far away, and everyone back home can't wait to hear what it is like. Write a clear description of this place -- whether real or imaginary -- to give your readers a vivid picture of what it is like there. Consider writing this in the format of a postcard, and you can draw an illustration where the photograph might be in a real postcard.

 

 

Scientific Scoop

 

Write a complete description of the parts of a living cell, how the weather moves water, how humans use gravity, or other scientific process to show your understanding of the topic. You can include an illustration with labels if you wish.

 

 

Having It Made

 

Think about someone you know who is successful. It might be someone you know, or someone you've never met, but know about and admire. The person doesn't necessarily have to be rich and famous. In what ways is this person successful? Describe one or more ways in detail. Include details that explain and describe how that person attained success. You might create this descriptive essay in the form of a full-page newspaper ad celebrating this person. You can draw a picture of the person to go with your text.

 

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.AfterSchoolTreats.com Writing 2010

 

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