Shmoop's Guide to Writing the Perfect Essay
The Descriptive Essay is, for most of us, the gateway to essay writing. Be careful: that gateway is guarded by a couple of pretty ferocious-looking stone statue dragons holding swords. We suggest building up some speed before you pass them.
We’ve all gone through the rite of passage that is the Descriptive Essay, describing in writing our favorite person or vacation or most embarrassing memory. Very possibly, we experienced all three simultaneously. Like that time we went to Six Flags with our dad and got stuck upside-down on the Riddler’s Revenge. Hey, at least it was worse for the people standing directly below you.
The purpose of this essay is to get your reader to see through your eyes (hope they’ve got the required contact prescription), and to entertain, amuse, or interest them with your unique experiences and thoughts. You can get pretty creative with this essay, which makes it fun to write. Especially if you write it while wearing your “silly hat.” We don’t know where you got it, but that thing always makes us giggle.
One common variation of this essay is the Personal Narrative, in which you describe an incident or memory in story form. It’s like you’re the star of your very own essay. We wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Lions Gate to approach you about obtaining movie rights.
Another popular variation is the Descriptive Essay that is narrated not through your voice, but through the voice of another character. Now’s your chance to live vicariously through your favorite literary figure or reality television star. A possible assignment might be: Describe Your Favorite Memory as Honey Boo Boo. For essays like this, you really have to enter into the heart and mind of the character—a scary thought in this instance. Simply peppering your essay with “A dollar makes me wanna holler!” will not cut it.
And if the character you are channeling is from an earlier time period, you’ll have to think extra hard about historical details and what their world was like. You can’t really have Aristotle riding his segue down the streets of Athens. It might be a little more challenging than a general Descriptive Essay, but it can be really interesting to put yourself in a character’s shoes (or sandals) and write in a voice that’s not yours. At least there will probably be less yelling.