Writing a descriptive essay, or a “describe a person you admire essay” can be a fantastic way of developing your writing skills. These skills will be particularly useful if you choose to write fiction.
This type of writing is very different to academic writing, but it is hugely rewarding, and doing it well can become a stepping stone into a career in writing in the United Kingdom.
Step one: Choose your subject/Brainstorm
The essay about someone you admire could focus on, for example, your father, your mother, a friend, a grandparent, a celebrity like UK favourite Kate Middleton, a public figure like Mahatma Ghandi or your favourite teacher.
Write a paragraph about a person you admire as you brainstorm. Think about what message you want to get across.
Step two: Write your first draft
Your first draft is exactly that – a first draft. Don’t worry too much about everything being perfect. The most important thing at this point is getting all your thoughts down on paper.
Remember, this is a descriptive essay about a person you love and feel admiration for – you want the reader to feel as though they know the person after reading your piece.
A good writer can make you feel as though you know a person. A great writer makes you care about the person.
Show, don’t tell
I’m sure you’ve come across this term before. It’s the mantra of most creative writers and their teachers. But what does it actually mean?
It’s simple really. Use words to build up a picture in your reader’s mind. Don’t just tell them things; let them see it in their mind.
Telling – The man was angry
Showing – The man jumped to his feet, his face red and frowning. He gave an unintelligible roar, spraying spittle in front of his face. He crossed the room in three quick strides, wrenching the door open and slamming it shut behind him.
Do you see the difference there? You can show the reader that the man is angry without even using the word. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why showing is a better writing technique.
Use the senses
To really bring your piece to life and make the reader feel a personal connection to your writing, use all of the senses:
Sight – Describe the physical attributes of the person
Sound – What does their speech sound like?
Touch – What do they feel like – for example, are their hands rough from years of hard work?
Smell – What smells do you associate with the person? Did they always wear a certain scent?
Taste – Do you associate any tastes with the person? Did they have a signature cake recipe that no one can match?
Step three: Edit
Reread your work, concentrating on the following:
- Does the essay flow well? If not, re-order your paragraphs until it does.
- Try to imagine you are reading about a stranger. Have you included enough details to make you feel like you know them? Do you know what they look like? Do you feel as though you understand their character and motivations?
- Have you showed rather than told?
- Of course, check your spelling, punctuation and grammar too. Have you used clichés? Too many adjectives?
If, at the end of the piece, you feel something towards the person, you have done a good job!