Description is one of four rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse), along with exposition, argumentation, and narration. Each of the rhetorical modes is present in a variety of forms and each has its own purpose and conventions. The act of description may be related to that of definition. Description is also the fiction-writing mode for transmitting a mental image of the particulars of a story.
Description as a fiction-writing mode
Fiction is a form of narrative, one of the four rhetorical modes of discourse. Fiction-writing also has modes for fiction-writing: action, exposition, description, dialogue, summary, and transition (Morrell 2006, p. 127). Author Peter Selgin refers to methods, including action, dialogue, thoughts, summary, scene, and description (Selgin 2007, p. 38). Currently, there is no consensus within the writing community regarding the number and composition of fiction-writing modes and their uses.
Description is the fiction-writing mode for transmitting a mental image of the particulars of a story. Together with dialogue, narration, exposition, and summarization, description is one of the most widely recognized of the fiction-writing modes. As stated in Writing from A to Z, edited by Kirk Polking, description is more than the amassing of details; it is bringing something to life by carefully choosing and arranging words and phrases to produce the desired effect (Polking 1990, p. 106). The most appropriate and effective techniques for presenting description are a matter of ongoing discussion among writers and writing coaches.
In literary criticism, purple prose is a passage or sometimes an entire literary work, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensuously evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response.
In philosophy, the nature of description has been an important question since Bertrand Russell's classical texts (cf. Ludlow, 2007).
- Grammatical modifier
- Grammatical voice
- Narrative mode
- Referential density
- Rhetorical devices
- Word choice
- Ludlow, Peter (2007). Descriptions. In: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descriptions/
- Rozakis, Laurie (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style, 2nd Edition. Alpha. ISBN 978-1-59257-115-4
- Marshall, Evan (1998). The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. pp. 143–165. ISBN 1-58297-062-9.
- Morrell, Jessica Page (2006). Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. p. 127. ISBN 978-1-58297-393-7.
- Polking, Kirk (1990). Writing A to Z. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0-89879-435-8.
- Selgin, Peter (2007). By Cunning & Craft: Sound Advice and Practical Wisdom for fiction writers. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-58297-491-0.
- The dictionary definition of description at Wiktionary