Figurative Language and Descriptive Writing Crystal Hurd John S. Battle H.S. Adapted from Eric Fish Hints for Descriptive Writing COLORS: When using colors to describe an object in your essay, avoid non-descriptive colors like blue, brown, yellow, etc. If you think about it, there is no such color as "blue." If you don't believe this is true, go into a paint store and ask for "blue" paint; the salesperson will hand you swatches containing 100 different shades of blue. Blue is a category of colors ranging from seafoam green to midnight blue to baby blue and you must be precise about which color you are talking about. In other words, no one has "blue" eyes. He or she may have eyes of Caribbean blue, but no one has just "blue" eyes. The same thing goes for blonde hair, red lips, brown eyes, brown hair, etc. Be as precise as possible with colors. Figurative Language FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: The idea behind using figurative language is to describe something as accurately as possible and to create an image and a sense of surprise or delight in the reader's mind. To say a certain food "smelled bad" is not descriptive. To say a certain food "smelled really bad" is not descriptive either. Words like "really" and very" are simply not descriptive (what is the difference between something smelling "really" bad and something smelling "really really really" bad?). Now, to say a certain food "smelled like a pile of sweaty jock straps that had been left in an warm incubator for six months" gives the reader a more accurate sense of the writer's distaste for the food being described and creates a certain image in the reader's mind. You should also notice that nearly all poetry and religious texts rely on figurative language. How else can a human being relate something that words cannot express except by relying on images and ideas created through figurative language? You should also notice that good insults rely on the use of figurative language! Examples of Figurative Language Simile--when two unlike things are compared to each other using "like" or "as." You look like 5 miles of bad road. (compares a person to a road) "Our love is like a red, red rose . . ." (compares love to a rose) Her laugh made her sound like a pig choking on a hairball. He is as dumb as a coal bucket. (compares a person to a bucket) The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. (Psalm 1) Metaphors Metaphor--when two unlike things are compared directly to each other without using "like" or "as." The Lord is my shepherd. (compares God to a shepherd and us to sheep) That woman isn't exactly the coldest soda in the cooler. (compares a woman to a soda) He is a male chauvinist pig. (compares a man to a pig) The field of daisies was a yellow carpet on the earth. (compares flowers to carpet) Personification Personification--assigning a human trait to a non-human object The toilet was calling my name. (toilets don't speak) My car prefers Exxon gas. (cars don't have "preferences") The tree jumped in front of my car! (trees don't "jump") My printer hates me. (printers don't hate) Hyperbole Hyperbole--deliberate and obvious over-exaggeration I'm so hungry I could eat a horse. He is so stupid he takes an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes. He hit me so hard my whole family fell down. Synesthesia Synesthesia--a deliberate confusion of the senses used for effect. That stench hung in the air like a purple fog. (stench has no color) "Amazing grace how sweet the sound . . ." (how is a sound "sweet?) That tie is so loud it is busting my eardrums. Verbal Irony Verbal Irony--when the words say one thing but mean another. Sarcasm tends to rely on verbal irony. When the driver pulled out in front of me I screamed, "Thanks a lot! We need more drivers like you on the road!" Thanks for the twenty hours of homework Professor Smith! When my boyfriend stole my rent money and took my car to Florida, I realized he was a real keeper. Descriptive Assignment #1 • • For this assignment you will describe either the nastiest food dish you have ever eaten or the best food dish you have ever eaten. Your description should be limited to one food (green beans or oysters or macaroni and cheese, etc.). Do not describe a buffet or an entire meal with multiple foods. For the first part of this assignment you should write 20 full sentences that describe this food in precise detail. Don’t tell a story; stay focused on the food. Make sure you compose 20 precise, clear, descriptive sentences. Don’t be afraid to pull out your thesaurus to look up descriptive words. Some requirements: Food employs all five senses: sight, sound, smell, texture (touch), and taste. Be sure to use at least one sentence for each sense. At least 5 of your sentences should employ figurative language. Be creative with your use of figurative language. Remember to be precise with the names of colors. There is no color called “blue” or “green” or “red” or “brown.” Do not use the words “very,” “really,” or “it” in your sentences.
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