Exceptional memoirs use detailed description to convey insight found in significant experiences. The reader wants to know what it was like to be in a certain place during a specific time and how you reacted to problems and people. For most of us, places we have been are completely entwined with our memories and our sense of self. Think about a place you have been at any point in your life that you particularly enjoyed or perhaps where you felt most like yourself. (Or, conversely, it can be a place you despised where you didn’t fit in.) Think of the people there, what they did, why they made an impression. Think about the culture of the place. Think of a time in your life that ended up changing who you are.
Strong description is achieved through using sensory details that appeal to sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Likewise, try to find inventive and interesting adjectives and adverbs to bring specific texture to the essay. While this essay is a memoir, you will need to limit your subject to a relatively small period of time, perhaps a single moment that can be conveyed in 2-3 pages.
The essay should be organized spatially and chronologically, that is, the details should be arranged as you describe your subject by the location, but also in the order that events happened. When choosing how to present the details of the subject, choose an order that will create the greatest impact on your audience, which can be done by ordering your paper so that the most significant details come toward the end.
The first paragraph should introduce us to the central impression and situation. This can be done by giving us a little background on the place and people and why they are memorable. Your thesis statement needs to emphasize what you want your audience to think or feel about the thing you are describing. It should be the last sentence of your introduction.
The body needs to reinforce the central impression from the thesis statement by using words that help build on that impression and descriptions that further support your purpose. Use transitions in between paragraphs to emphasize spatial organization.
The last paragraph needs to include final conclusions about why the place, people or event is important, what you learned, why it has stayed with you.
You must use: 5 vocabulary words from the Writing Basics handout (bolded in the final draft), at least three similes or metaphors, a variety of sentence starts and appeal to at least three different senses.
Freewrite, brainstorm or cluster (map) about events or places from your past that you consider significant in some way. They may involve a quiet moment–a brief encounter with a remarkable person, a visit to a special place, an achievement (or failure)–or something like a large celebration. Remember to think about your readers.
Steps in the Description Writing Process
Notice I’ve used specific words from my
brainstorm in my thesis.
Organize your ideas into separate
paragraphs and add details for the body
of the essay. Each body paragraph
should have a topic sentence followed
by a list of details to include. The outline
should not look like a rough draft:
1.The craggy cliff overlooked the beach
and closed it off from the world.
i.color–weathered white with a red
ii.field-grassy, well kept with a white
Steps in the Description Writing Process
1.The trail leading up the cliff
to the lighthouse was like a
scary witch beckoning me to
come into her dark cottage.
Continue until you’ve outlined the entire
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