Descriptive Language

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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I read an article on Mark Doty's new memoir, Firebird, which included much descriptive language. Doty's boyhood is described: "Doty's boyhood was peripatetic and lonely, his family, like erratic tourists, crisscrossed the country." Doty is described as a: "Chubby, smart, bookish, sissy with glasses and a Southern accent." Both of these are great examples of descriptive language writing. When Doty's boyhood was referred to both lonely and peripatetic were used, also mentioned very descriptively was how his family was "erratic" tourists, not just tourists. Doty is extensively described in many ways. It helps the reader get a great picture of what Doty may have looked and how he may have lived his life. Later in the article it talks about how Doty's sister's girlish souvenirs were beautiful to him, "because they evoked other possibilities, something secretive, forbidden and rich with life." With this descriptive language you get a picture of what the souvenirs did for Doty and why.

The words in this article are like a painter's colors. Changing just one word in a sentence can alter the picture or detail that a listener is imagining. For example, construct a sentence without any adjectives. Add some descriptive words and see how the picture evoked by the words changes. The more the storyteller says, the more the listener will "see" in their imagination