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Descriptive Writing Vivid Verbs and Sensuous Sentences.

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1 Descriptive Writing Vivid Verbs and Sensuous Sentences

2 Goals for This Workshop: Be able to identify ineffective description Know resources for alternative vocabulary Have tools for revising description

3 When Description Is Used Scenes Introductory paragraphs, narratives People Profiles, character analyses Business Résumés, reports, research papers Processes Process analyses, recipes, personal experience

4 Ineffective Description Uses dull, ordinary vocabulary Lacks sensory information Fails to follow a logical sequence Provides unfocused, excessive detail

5 Effective Descriptions 1. Have accurate nouns, verbs, and modifiers 2. Have words for readers’ sensory imagination 3. Tell readers what is important for them to know

6 Dull Verbs and Modifiers I went up the beach, past colorful rocks, and then I could see him looking into an old log. Who looked? What kinds of colors? How was the action done?

7 Some Vivid Verbs & Modifiers “I stumbled a little woozily up the beach, clambering over the boulders of quietly hallucinatory colours, and then from my new vantage point saw Mark away in the distance on his knees and peering into an old log” (Adams 121).

8 Ineffective Vocabulary Inaccurate, vague nouns thing, way, stuff, type, method, factor… Dull verbs be, do, get, go, have, make… Clumsy modifiers misused or misplaced adjectives, adverbs, etc.

9 Where do I find the words? EVERYWHERE! Formal sources: reference books, professional journals, news media, etc. Informal sources: peers, TV, Internet blogs, videos, novels, poetry, podcast interviews—especially with writer-performers

10 Accurate Nouns? Nouns are names for people, places, and things—they can be very accurate, or very generic. Choose whichever is appropriate. What makes a choice appropriate?

11 Accurate Nouns spiky purple flowers water lilies Nymphaeaceae ????

12 Dull Verbs Dull verbs only tell us the basic facts, lacking descriptive dimension: I walked to the store.

13 Revising Verbs I Changing the verb can add meaningful information in just one word: - I slogged to the store. Now we know it took great effort to do the action, and we may feel what the author felt.

14 Dull Verbs II Some common boring verbs: be, do, get, go, have, make, put, run, see, take, talk, use

15 Revising Verbs II To enliven your verbs, circle the repeated boring ones, and replace them with more meaningful verbs: She ran to answer the phone. She sprinted to answer the phone.

16 Power Verbs in Résumés Created Studied Excelled Formulated Designed Led Produced Supervised Formed Managed Honored Recognized Accomplished Achieved Wrote Served Executed Constructed Generated Initiated Negotiated Operated Mastered Developed Presented Dynamic, achievement-oriented verbs, such as

17 Clumsy Modifiers Dull Adjectives: good, bad, nice, great, different, happy Confusing placement: The damaged student’s car I fought off the dog in my pajamas. Finding it ransacked, I entered the house.

18 Adjectives Adjectives (and adverbs) prevent an action or a thing being any other way: He spoke softly. He didn’t speak loudly or hysterically. My generous neighbor. Our attention is drawn to the neighbor’s generosity, not sense of humor or annoying habits.

19 Revising Adjectives He was a nice guy. It was a difficult time for me. What’s your definition of nice? What made it difficult? How was it so?

20 Effective Descriptions 1. Have accurate nouns, verbs, and modifiers 2. Have words for readers’ sensory imagination 3. Tell readers what is important for them to know

21 Sensory Information Our readers NEED to have sensory input.

22 Sensory Information Sensory input: words that have to do with sight feeling (texture and emotions) taste smell sound

23 Sensory Information Before writing, visualize the scene, situation, person, or process. Note the colors, arrangements or sequences, sounds, smells, thoughts or feelings involved.

24 Sensory Detail “The smell of the bush, the smell of the dust and grass, caught at [Mma Ramotswe’s] heart as it always did; and now there was added a whiff of wood smoke, that marvellous, acrid smell that insinuates itself through the still air of morning as people make their breakfast and warm their hands by the flames” (Smith 196).

25 Effective Descriptions 1. Have accurate nouns, verbs, and modifiers 2. Have words for readers’ sensory imagination 3. Tell readers what is important for them to know

26 Essential Sensory Information Our readers need to have ONLY the most IMPORTANT sensory input!

27 Decide What Is Important As writers for an American audience, YOU need to decide what is important for your readers to know—and what can be left out. Every bit of description has to have a purpose.

28 Not every sense needs mentioning… I tentatively approached the door. It had a smooth, egg- shaped, brass doorknob, and turned without resistance. I pushed open the door and looked around the room that smelled of rose water and ozone. I turned and walked with creaking footsteps across the hallway to the next door down on my right at the two o’clock position. It was inlaid with mother-of-pearl in the shape of tulips. Through the door I could hear shouting.

29 Tools for Revising 1 Engage your senses! Recall or imagine the sounds, smells, tones of voice, textures, etc. Determine if the words on the page represent the most important sensory details.

30 What Would You Change? I tentatively approached the door. It had a smooth, egg- shaped, brass doorknob, and turned without resistance. I pushed open the door and looked around the room that smelled of rose water and ozone. I turned and walked with creaking footsteps across the hallway to the next door down on my right at the two o’clock position. It was inlaid with mother-of-pearl in the shape of tulips. Through the door I could hear shouting.

31 Tools for Revising 2 Consider your audience We use different words and phrases for different settings. What does it mean to be appropriate?

32 Technical Writing Job applications Tailor your experience to each job description Process Reports Include what has an effect on the outcome Make every statement NEW information

33 Characterization in Profile Essays States of mind: mood, emotions, personality Physical expressions show readers e.g., fast heartbeat, twitchy smile, bright eyes Speech mannerisms Quality of dress: neat, frumpy, expensive, cheap... Can show class, gender, etc.

34 Tools for Revising 3 Engage your best writing tools: a thesaurus and a dictionary! 1)Find an alternate related to your first word. 2)Look up the meaning of the alternate to see if it really fits. 3)If it doesn’t fit, rinse and repeat!

35 Take Time to Brainstorm! Visualize Feel your own emotions Giving physical sensations “shows” readers instead of just “telling” readers Consider several words for the same topic Recall your own experiences

36 Questions to ask while drafting What did it look like? Where was it in relation to other things? What did you smell? Hear? Taste? How did you feel at the time? Afterward? Physical sensations Emotional sensation

37 Drafting Draft and put aside for a while Revise for importance to audience, relevance to topic, and order or sequence for organization

38 Review: Effective Descriptions 1. Have accurate nouns, verbs, and modifiers 2. Have words for readers’ sensory imagination 3. Tell readers what is important for them to know

39 Bibliography Adams, Douglas and Mark Carwardine. Last Chance to See. New York: Ballantine, Littlefield, Jamie. “25 Powerful Verbs for Your Résumé.” About.com The New York Times Co. 26 Jan Lunsford, Andrea. “20 Most Common Errors.” EasyWriter Resources. n.d. Bedford/St. Martin’s. 12 April Meyers, Alan. Writing with Confidence: Writing Effective Sentences and Paragraphs 6 th Edition. New York: Longman, Smith, Alexander McCall. Morality for Beautiful Girls. New York: Anchor, Thackston, Karen. “Copywriting and Your Five Senses.” About.com The New York Times Co. 20 Oct

40 Descriptive Writing Vivid Verbs and Sensuous Sentences


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