Describe a place essay example
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How to Write an Event Essay About a Memory, Place or Experience
Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.
Can be about a single important moment or vivid recollections of memorable reoccurring events.
trip with family
activity you did with a parent
relationship with grandparent
memories about special gift
event which went wrong
when you lost trust in someone
event which went better than expected
when you won something
friend who taught you something
special aunt or uncle
doing something with family
something you wished could happen again
moment in nature
something you learned
something you lost or found
object you treasure
1. Describe the experience so that the reader experiences the event alongside you.
2. Include lots of descriptive details. You need to make sure the reader sees, hears, feels, smells and experiences the event vividly.
3. Use either a chronological (in the order things happened) or topical (parts of the event) organization.
- Organize around a conflict which is resolved in some way. The conflict can be internal or external. The climax will be the revelation and resolution of the conflict.
- Write climactically. That means that in the body of the paper, the least important events are first and the most important are last. The paragraphs of your paper should actually reflect this climactic development. The most important events should be longer paragraphs.
- Slow down and describe moments very vividly. You need to make sure the reader sees, hears, feels, smells and experiences the event vividly. Show how you feel rather than telling about it. What were you thinking, doing or saying that would show how you feel? What details of the setting or of other people could show the emotion?
- Conclude with why this story is important. Don’t spend so much time or space on the details that you forget to explain the significance of this memory. In fact, telling why this moment was pivotal in your life is an excellent conclusion.
Four Organizing Strategies
Chronological is best for a single moment of time with intense action, whether that is internal or external action, or for an event which unfolds in time, like a visit to a grandparent, or a vacation. See Ann Dillard’s essay “American Childhood” below for an example. With this method, you:
- Tell the story in the order in which events happened.
- Tell the events suspensefully.
- Explain the meaning after the climax of the story or let the events show the meaning.
- Optional: you might use a frame story to start your paper. A frame can be another, similar memory that helps you reflect on the meaning of the incident (this is what Dillard uses in the opening), or it can be a present-day memory that shows the meaning of the past event (which Dillard uses at the end)
“American Childhood” by Anne Dillard is a good example of using chronological organization. In this story, Dillard tells a memory from her childhood one winter morning when she was 7 years old and got in trouble for throwing snowballs at cars, being chased down an ally by an adult.
Introduction: Dillard uses a frame story to explain the other characters, setting and scene. She explains that at 7, she was used to playing sports with boys and that taught her how to fling herself at something. She then finishes the introduction by telling the reader “I got in trouble throwing snowballs, and have seldom been happier since”.
Body: In the body of the paper, Dillard tells the story chronologically, in the order that it happened:
- Waiting on the street with the boys in the snow.
- Watching the cars.
- Making iceballs.
- Throwing the iceball and having it hit the windshield of a car, breaking it.
- The car pulling over and stopping.
- A man getting out of the car and chasing them.
- The kids running for their lives.
- The man chasing her and Mikey around the neighborhood, block after block.
- The pounding and the straining of the chase.
- The man catching them when they could not get away.
- The man’s frustration and “You stupid kids” speech.
Conclusion: Dillard returns to the idea that this was her supreme moment of happiness and says if the driver would have cut off their heads, she would have “died happy because nothing has required so much of me since as being chased all over Pittsburg in the middle of winter–running terrified, exhausted–by this sainted, skinny, furious redheaded man who wished to have a word with us.” She ends the piece with an ironic comment “I don’t know how he found his way back to his car.”
Another powerful way to organize is to use a key metaphor or object. An excellent example of this can be seen in “ On Being a Real Westerner” by Tobias Woolf which uses a series of memories revolving around a rife to explain how he came to understand death.
Metaphor organization works best when several short memories are tied together by a particular object, symbol or word. Here is how to use this method:
- Choose several memories relating to one object, person or emotion. In “On Being a Real Westerner” the memories are all organized around a rifle: getting it, reacting to his mother’s objections, playing with it, acting like a sniper, loading the rife, shooting a squirrel and feeling conflicted emotions afterward.
- Tell memories in chronological order, but make sure the most important memory is last and told in more detail. In “On Being a Westerner” the story of shooting the squirrel and the aftermath is longer and explained moment by moment.
- Tie the memories together with a theme about their meaning. The theme in Woolf’s story is power. He concludes with the idea that the hunger for power has shaped his growth to manhood, and yet as a man he is powerless to change the past, “the man can’t help the boy.”
This method is also called “expectations reversed” and is a favorite with many of my students. If you have a memory which had an unexpected outcome which was better or worse that you expect, this can be a good way to highlight the difference. A good example is” 100 Miles Per Hour” by Rick Bragg. Here are the instructions:
Introduction: Set up with a clear and vivid description of the expectation. Bragg starts with a clear description of getting a car that fulfills every desire he had in mind. You may foreshadow the disaster. Bragg uses details and suggestions to indicate that everything isn’t what it seems.
Body: The reality of what happens (the unexpected event) is the body of the paper. This section should be a very vivid description of a moment in time. In “100 Miles Per Hour” this is the description of the accident.
Conclusion: What does this experience mean? How did the reversal of expectations change you? Sometimes there is an ironic ending. Bragg says that even though his car was fixed “some part of her was still broken” and after someone “backed into her in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly” he was so disgusted he sold her to “a preacher’s son, who drove the speed limit.”
Frame stories are something you’ve seen often in books and movies such as The Notebook where the story starts in the present and then flashes back to the past, returning to the present at the end. Another way of doing a frame is to have someone telling the story to someone else, as in the movie The Princess Bride.
The student essay “ Calling Home ” by Jean Brandt does a particularly good job of using this technique along with expectations unfulfilled. Here is how to use this method:
- Introduction: Tell a story or part of a story which stops in the middle of the action. Usually, this story will frame expectations. In Brandt’s story, the opening is a car ride to the mall. Brandt uses different car rides to frame the opening and conclusion. In addition, there is a car ride in the middle as well which is used as a transition to the second half.
- Body: Flashback story which tells the conflict and resolution. In Brandt’s story, there are three short stories about her conflicts. The first is an internal conflict about whether she should steal the button. The second is the conflict with the manager who catches her and calls the police. The third is the conflict with the police and her parents. The resolution is her realization of her wrong choice.
- Conclusion: Finish the opening story or tell a story which explains the meaning. In Brandt’s story, it is a car trip home with a twist in the conflict because she is not in as much trouble with her parents as she expected. It is not just the mall trip which reverses expectations, her expectations of what her parents will say and do are reversed as well.
Frame stories are my favorite technique for students to use because it automatically gives them both an introduction and a conclusion and easily helps them use their present perspective to help explain the meaning of the story. Additionally, this technique helps you to get the readers attention if you start in the middle of the most vivid moment (such as the moment an accident happens) or if you stop before you get to the end (making the reader want to finish your paper to get the whole story.
Uses Frame Organiziation
Why use a Frame Story?
Frame stories are one of my favorite techniques to teach students because they are easy to do and automatically bump your writing up a notch. Using a frame in your introduction and conclusion makes it easier to tell a deeper meaning and almost always make your essay seem more sophisticated and powerful.
Sample Student Outline
For example, a student wants to write about a memory of a fight with her sister when she is young. This fight and the lecture by her mother afterward leads her to realize how much she really loves her sister. The conflict and resolution of the fight will be the body of her paper. To put the memory in context and show significance, she can use a conversation with her sister as the opening and the conclusion. Here is her simple organization outline:
- Introduction: Conversation with sister in the present. Maybe this could be the start of a fight. When writing conversations like this you can try to re-create a real conversation, or make up a conversation which is typical of the type of things you would say to one another. As a transition to the flashback memory, you could write something like “I suddenly remembered…” Another way to do this is to have the conversation end and then you could start thinking about the past event.
- Body: Describe the flashback memory vividly and the lesson that was learned.
- Conclusion: Here are three possible ways to conclude:
- Return to the conversation with the sister and decide to end the coming fight because of remembering this past event.
- Have a phone call which ends the fight and brings up the earlier memory.
- Another way to conclude would be to reflect on the present relationship and how the experience of what was learned about sisterhood in the fight when young has made them close now.
Questions & Answers
How do you write an experience or tour of a place for a magazine publication?
When writing for print publication, you need to choose a particular magazine that you are interested in writing for. While an article might be able to be written for several magazines, you will have better chances for success in getting published if you write according to the style guide and content of one particular magazine. That means you need first to find a magazine and then study both their instructions and their content.
Every magazine has their own style guide, so that is the place to start. Look in the magazine for information about how to submit and how to get information about what they want from writers. Magazines have to sort through a lot of submissions, and so they will probably give you many clear guidelines, and it is important to follow those closely. Secondly, your best way to understand those guidelines is to look at them while reading articles in that magazine. Here are some steps:
1. I’d suggest that you go to the library and look through the last year of the issues of that magazine.
2. Find a couple of articles that look like the one you want to write.
3. Read them carefully, taking note of the style, the tone, the length of sentences, and the type of content.
4. Outline the article and take a word count of each paragraph.
5. Take that outline and use it to write an outline of your article.
6. Write your article. You can use many of the tips I give here.Helpful 2
How do I write about an incident that left me wise and experienced?
When you write about an event, place or person, you will probably want to talk about the meaning of that experience and generally, that means you have learned something from it. Good choices for this topic could be:
1. A time when you made a mistake.
2. When someone betrayed you or you had a bad experience with someone.
3. When you failed at something.
4. When you worked hard and persevered at something.
5. When you lost someone due to death or moving.Helpful 4
How do I write an imaginative essay based on a significant event that enhanced the relations in a country?
You should choose a character that was in that event and then write the story based on the perceptions and experiences that character would have had in that situation.Helpful 3
How do I write about my dream life partner?Unless you are talking about…Helpful
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Write an essay explaining the value of the small everyday event of life.
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Thanks Iddrisu! I am not able to teach this sort of essay in my class at the moment because our guidelines have changed, but I really have enjoyed this essay so much in the past.
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Descriptive Compositions: I’ll Correct Yours!!
New English word? Translate any word using double click.
Today we’re going to look at how to write an essay describing a person or a place. Read the article, and then write your own composition. Send it to me ([email protected]) and I’ll correct it and comment on it for you – completely free!
1. Describing People
Let’s start looking at what you shouldn’t do. Read this text:
My Best Friend (250-300 words)
“My best friend’s name is Stephen. He is tall and thin. He is strong. He has got brown eyes and brown hair and his hair is quite short and curly. Stephen is my friend because he is a good person he is happy and he helps me. He broke his leg once and he cried but he is usually a happy person.
He has got two sisters one older than him and one younger than him and he lives in the same town as me. We went to the same school together and he was very naughty, like me. Now he goes to University because he is very clever. He is bad sometimes but sometimes he is quiet and shy.
I met Stephen when I was six years old at school. At the beginning we weren’t friends but now we are because he is a good person and we always have a good time when we see each other. He smiles a lot but we don’t see each other very much now because he is at university and I am still in our town. It’s a bit sad I don’t see him so much but when we see each other we meet and have a drink and talk about things together and I like that.” (215 words)
What do you think of this description? Grammatically, it is perfect- there are no mistakes in spelling either……. but I would not give it more than 5/10. These are the reasons:
Doesn’t explain (Good? Bad? Clever? Quiet? Naughty? Shy? Give examples!!)
Badly used punctuation
Basically, this fails because it does not do the job- I do not know anything real about Stephen because he has not been described. So let’s try again:
My Best Friend (250-300 words)
“I met Stephen on the first day of primary school. Although we live in the same town we had gone to different infants’ schools and we hadn’t known each other since then…..”
-Bang! That’s a good start. We have a structure, which means we know what we are going to say, which is essential.
A structure is basically a washing line where we can hang all our grammar, vocabulary and so on. If we don’t have a structure and we don’t know where the composition is going we’re going to repeat ourselves and the text will be very basic: Here, for example, we have already used three tenses (Present Simple, Past Simple and Past Perfect) which is more than the whole first text, and now we can go on to use Past Continuous….
“It was raining outside when we went into the classroom. I was feeling nervous and I wanted to sit next to my cousin Patrick, but Stephen – who knew him from infants’ school- was already there. I don’t remember what we said to each other but we were both punished- What a way to start school and start a friendship!”
-It is far more specific in its detail than the first text (and I am inventing) which makes it much easier to write more, automatically using a wider range of grammar and vocabulary:
“Now me, Patrick and Stephen are best friends: we’ve had a lot of fun times together, and we’ve done a lot of things we shouldn’t have- knocking on people’s doors and running away, changing people’s washing with their neighbours’ – doing what kids do everywhere. We’ve had some bad times too- Stephen once broke his leg when we wanted to see who could climb a tree the fastest!”
-We have a much better idea of Stephen- the image is becoming clearer. Grammatically we have now used the Present Perfect and put a Modal (should) in the past.
-We have started from the beginning, using Past Perfect, Past Simple and Past Continuous. We have moved on in time to use the Present Perfect. Now we are going to use the Present tense and finish off with a Future or/and a Conditional- A structure does not have to be complicated!
“Although we were (and still are!) quite naughty together, Stephen is in fact quite shy- especially when he meets a girl! He’s good-looking: tall, slim with wavy, light brown hair and blue eyes, and I think girls like him because he has a very warm and friendly smile. We always make fun of him because he acts very politely. Really, Stephen is the type of person you can go to when you have a problem. He has helped me hundreds of times, lending me money, bringing and taking me to places, giving me good advice.”
-Here I’ve included a comparison, which always gives an extra factor to the composition.
“I am a lot more outgoing than he is. Stephen is quieter and he isn’t as impulsive. We don’t see each other as much as we used to- He studies Philosophy at Oxford University, and I’m working with my Dad. I’d like to think that even if life takes us on different paths, we’ll still meet up together in fifty years and laugh about that first argument we had together!”
-I have gone over the word limit! This isn’t a good idea, but it shows that when you stop and think about what you are going to write, you’ll have no problems with ideas (and remember: this is completely invented!)
-If you start writing the first thing that comes into your head, the composition will be poor, and you will end up wasting time in the middle: ‘And what do I write now?’
Barcelona is my favourite city. It is in the north-east of Spain on the coast and it is very big. It has got beaches, cathedrals and museums. You can see Gaudi’s architecture. The Sagrada Familia is very blablabla………
Not Good! Basically, the idea of describing a place is the same as describing a person, and you should follow the same guidelines:
– Think of a Structure (Past-Present-Future)
– Try to include some comparisons.
– Don’t just use a list of adjectives: Justify and demonstrate each one with examples.
– Repeat as little as possible, and never in the same paragraph.
– Use your paragraphs and punctuation to make reading easier.
– You can give us a better idea if you explain your relationship with the place, and what it means to you personally.
My Favourite Place (250-300 words)
“I had been born just one month before when my family packed their bags and we drove to Cornwall to visit my gran. Every year and every summer of my childhood this was repeated, and this county has always been for me a second home.
As a child, Cornwall meant wide beaches with terrific waves that knocked you over when you went into the sea, or smaller coves flanked by rocks, leaving pools at low tide where you could look for crabs and shellfish. When I was a bit older my parents often left me with my brothers to walk along the coast, and in the evenings we used to eat pasties and icecreams in the fishing ports on the South coast.
As my parents now live in this county, it is still an important part of my life. I love the rough and wild landscape of the North side; up on the cliffs by the empty tin mine chimneys, looking down at the lines of white surf. I have got to know the South coast more, too- its softer lines and quieter coast, the impressive Falmouth bay, and the genteel elegance of the capital, Truro.
Cornwall isn’t for everybody- It is the rainiest region of a rainy Island, and you can feel far away from the action and the events of England’s big cities. Everything seems slower, quieter, more in the past. If I was asked if I wanted to live there, at the moment my answer would be no- but I will always return to Cornwall, and Cornwall will always be with me.”
Did you like it? (This one isn’t invented).
Notice the division of paragraphs:
Short introduction – Past – Present – Comparison/Conditional/Future (including passive)
I understand that as a native English speaker I have an advantage with the language- ‘smaller coves flanked by rocks’, ‘up on the cliffs by the empty tin mine chimneys’ are not likely to be written by anyone who isn’t a native English speaker (and doesn’t know Cornwall well)- but you can’t use this as an excuse, because the general guidelines that I have given you can be applied to any level.
3. Your turn! Write your own composition. Send it to me ([email protected]) and I’ll correct it and comment on it for you – completely free!
Someone who is an example for me.
My best holiday destination.
A friend I have lost touch with.
A painting, building, or work of art.
Father and Son
Double click on any word on the page or type a word:
Double click any word / Pincha cualquier palabra dos veces.
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