Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Description Paragraphs

Description paragraphs can describe anything—a mean teacher, a Big Mac, your gay uncle’s apartment, the destruction of The World Trade Center. Descriptions depict; that is, they paint a word picture that is based on experience. Experience can be anything that has to do with the five senses. Using your sense of smell or taste, you can describe a Thanksgiving meal. Using your sense of hearing, you can describe a concert. Using a combination of sight, smell, and hearing, you can describe a burning building. A description paragraph is made up of sensory details. Arrange your sensory details in logical order. As a general rule, arrange details spatially, as you would to describe a room. You also want to make sure that this logical order produces an effect. The effect, or mood, can be sad or joyous, strange or sentimental, fascinating or comical. Because the number of details you employ to achieve an effect is infinite, choose them carefully. When describing a room, do not include every scrap of paper tacked to the bulletin board, only those that help build an effect. In the following paragraph, the details help us picture an alcoholic guitar teacher in the tiny world he has fashioned.

  • My guitar teacher lives in a dark, industrial section of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park—a neighborhood crowded with trucks by day, abandoned by night—in a cluttered apartment he shares with his chubby wife, his six-year-old daughter, an angry former bandmate who lifts weights, and a small white dog who barks. Every Tuesday night, I drive there for my lesson, climb a metal staircase attached to the outside of the building, and wait as the barking dog alerts my teacher, who opens the door and cheerfully leads me into his studio, a ten-foot square clutter of musical mementos and electrics. On all sides of this room—the floor, the desk, the walls, the ceiling—he has squeezed a carnival of objects that, despite their sheer density, he never moves. To my left is a small, electric keyboard, on top of which sits a toy outhouse, always resting on middle C. The keyboard sits on a waist-high shelf that runs the length of the wall and has a groove cut in it for a guitar rest. The same guitar always rests there. Six other guitars are part of the decor; two electric, two acoustic, and two electric basses. A large cello leans against the wall behind me. Covering the walls above the shelf are hundreds of videotapes, CDs, books on jazz, blues, and rock, and back issues of Guitar Player and Bass Magazine. Alongside the tapes and books are knickknacks,  meticulously arranged: toy guitars, posters—including a Fender poster that seems to include every famous bass player in the world—four spice containers in a neat row (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme), a TV set, a loft bed piled high with clothes and electronic junk, under which is a miniature recording studio, a backpack with a tiny amplifier in front (“Amp-in-a-Bag”), and an enormous Bluenote record label stuck to the ceiling. In a tiny space cleared in the middle of the room sits my 55-year-old teacher on a backless chair, caressing a can of Miller Lite, his eyes misty as he talks about never having the musical “endowment” to make it big.

Choose one of the topics below for a description paragraph:

A favorite hangout                     A photograph
Your mother’s face                    An object in your bedroom
Your favorite meal                    An interesting piece of clothing
A painting or sculpture                             A song or piece of music
An accident you witnessed                A strange relative
A sound that bothers you                A beautiful building
Your neighbor’s desk at work                Choose your own topic

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