Descriptive Portrait Essay Example

To prepare for this week’s post, I took a look at my notes from the Cheryl Strayed retreat I attended a few weeks ago.  I shared what I learned here and here and here. Thankfully, I was able to find a few more gems—and writing prompts.

Today’s topic? Character portraits.

1. Character Portraits Reveal Relationship

A portrait is a description of a person or a group of people.

From Cheryl Strayed, however, I learned portraits also reveal the relationship between a person and the writer (in memoir) or another character (fiction).

For example, a person might describe his father using terms like “looming,” “powerful,” and “spoke with a deep voice.” In addition to providing a physical description, these words evoke some of that fear or intimidation a child may have for his parent.

Another person (his wife, for example) may use completely different words to describe the same man.

So ask yourself, does your portrait reflect the person’s relationship to the speaker?

2. Character Portraits Are About More than the Physical

Cheryl read us a paragraph from a writer about his mother—but he didn’t use a single physical description.

Instead, he wrote, “She was the type of woman who was charming and beloved by strangers, but all of us close to her couldn’t help but walk on egg shells.”

I made this example up because I couldn’t remember the exact paragraph. However, I do remember the author wrote about his mother’s actions, how she made people feel, and what she said, while completely avoiding describing her physical appearance.

You don’t have to eliminate physical description. Rather, I encourage you to consider how you might create an image of a character if you couldn’t describe his or her appearance.

3. Character Portraits Can Be Made for Groups of People

When Cheryl was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in her memoir Wild, she kept running into a certain type of hiker. This group of hikers spoke a certain way, wore certain gear, and were all hiking for similar reasons. To portray this group, Cheryl decided to combine all of them into one, single character.

In cases where you want to depict a certain type of person, she said, you can choose to either combine those people into a single character, like she did  (in memoir, I might add), or you can literally write a portrait of the group.

For example, “The women of Logan Circle wear Lululemon yoga pants, racer-back tank tops, and yoga mats strapped across their backs.”  That’s how I would describe certain people in Logan Circle, D.C.  It’s not a portrait of one woman, but a type of woman that I always see there.

I understand the fear of stereotyping by describing groups this way.  My suggestion is to try to be accurate and fair, but also to  not be afraid to lean into your character’s subjectivity.

The real question is how the character would see these people.  Would he or she really have a nuanced perspective?

4. When Writing Character Portraits, Follow the HEAT

I wrote down this quote from Cheryl:

When someone you know well does something they always do, that’s a point of heat and interest, and when someone does something they never do, it’s also a place of heat and interest.

In other words, follow the heat.

I think this advice is particularly helpful in memoir.  Is there something someone in your life always does?  Is it in your description of him or her? If not, it should be!

What about a time when someone did something they never do?  Why did they do it? Let us know in the comments!

PRACTICE

I have a couple of related writing prompts for you today:

  1. Write a portrait of someone without describing him or her physically.
  2. Write a portrait of a group or category of people (or type of person).
  3. Write a portrait of yourself at your best or your worst.

Choose one of the writing prompts and write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, share your writing in the comments section. And if you share, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Happy writing!

Monica M. Clark

Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

An essay is a prose composition of a small size and free composition. It expresses individual experiences and views on a particular subject or issue.

So, what is the first thing that helps us to start working on writing descriptions? First of all, as with writing of any work, it is necessary to consider the purpose, subject and main idea of the future text. In my descriptive essay on a person, I will write about this type of essay and show a couple of examples. I can easily do this because I used a help of a homework writer who told me how to write such essays.

A distinctive feature of these essays is the presence of adjectives and participles in the text, because the main question is the question "what". What subject? What kind of person? What area? What weather? What picture? What mood? Essays on the descriptions are written by the next plan: first are general characteristics, then details and the individual characteristics. In the end of writing, there are general impressions.

The source of the descriptive essay on a person can be everything. As for other descriptions, it could be a life experience, when a portrait is recreated from memory (e.g., "The appearance of a person I saw once..."), or from imagination ("My portrait in 10 years"). The source of descriptions can be a special observation, including the painting. Another type of descriptive essay on a person is a verbal description of the character of a literary work.

Here I will write about creating the main part of the essay – a description of appearance, where it is necessary directly to describe it (and, hence, to enumerate its trappings and details). What items can be listed in the appearance of any person? The question will not cause trouble for you. It is enough to look at yourself in the mirror and list these items: head, hair, face, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, glance, a peculiarity of stature, growth, hands, feet, voice, clothing. Now it remains to choose adjectives, participles for answering the questions: what head? What kind of hair? What face? And so on... And now begins the most important thing: think about do like the person you describe, or not? The answer to this question depends on the main idea of the essay! After all, we can write a text about the favorite person, the great friend, the nice relative, but also about the unloved one, who will never be your friend...

When you determine what you want to express, you will begin to select material for your work. You will try to find epithets, metaphors, impersonation, to emphasize your attitude toward this man. If the person is unlikable for you, you can write about this not directly “I don’t like this man…” The reader will be able to guess himself, and you should help to do this matching definition.

Please note! Any description has always a certain aim. For example, you need to describe a person. Ask a question: for what purpose? If in order to tell how cute he is, then you will describe his appearance. If the goal is to write that he is a very good friend, then you will have to describe not only the external features but also his or her character.

For an example, I'll write a couple of essays that describe a person. It will be a description of appearance, description of personal qualities and description of the character. I also advise you to read the essay about character and get new information about oneself.

My friend Lucy

I have a friend with a beautiful name Lucy. She is low on growth, brown-eyed and black-browed. She has on her pale face barely visible freckles. Big brown eyes are framed with long fluffy eyelashes. She always grins with her amazing smile. When she laughs, her little nose wrinkles so funnily. She is very tidy. Her dresses are always ironed. Lucy is a sincere friend. Between us, there are never secrets. Together we read books, go to the library, prepare home tasks. When I was sick, she always comes to me after classes, talks about school and about her adventures. But the most interesting she talks about the new books she read. I want to listen to her every day, listen without end. Lucy doesn’t avoid work and just coming home from school immediately cleans up the room. I love my friend for her sensitivity, kindness and spiritual purity. This essay on friendship proves it.

My neighbor

Considering the topic before writing this essay, I kept thinking about whom is better to write: about someone of my friends, about my mother or about a familiar aunt? So I decided to describe the appearance of any woman I have ever known, but not related to me. So, I want to tell you about my neighbor - Emma. She is an ethnic Armenian, and it manifests in all form in my neighbor. It is manifested in everything: in the slightly hooked nose, in jet-black curly hair, in a soft, almost velvet voice and in very strong accent. Emma is a middle-aged woman, she is over forty. She is very tall, a little overweight but this corpulence surprisingly makes her such a beautiful woman.  Emma is a very interesting person. She loves to laugh and to joke. But if she sees that I'm sad or upset with someone, she always helps, talks to me and calms. This woman always smells of something delicious. Emma loves a good (and terribly expensive!) perfume. She loves to wear gold jewelry and doesn’t shy about this habit: she has golden earrings, a few rings on fingers with beautiful stones, heavy vintage bracelet with a reddish tint. "Gold adorns a real woman at the best way, it was invented especially for us," says Emma about her jewelry. It's funny, but I agree that women should monitor their appearance and to beautify oneself! I could write much more about Emma, but it should be clear: this is an interesting and special woman!

My uncle Jack

My uncle Jack is a very interesting person. Uncle Jack is calm, kind and at the same time cheerful person. He knows how to find a common language with everyone. He never raises his voice and says harsh words. And my uncle has a terrific sense of humor and knows how to tell great funny stories. He understands well the technology. The only time when is better not to disturb an uncle Jack- when he is busy. He works in the service center. He repairs mobile phones, laptops and digital equipment. Uncle Jack is usually polite with everyone. He's always friendly to me, gives a lot of time, shows and explains everything. He says he loves to communicate with young people, because their minds are full of fresh ideas. I like the character of my uncle. I'm glad that he often comes to visit us and we visit him. The conversation with him is very interesting and informative.

So, do you see that it is very easy to describe a person? It is because I used this services that taught me how to do it. You have to try it!

0 thoughts on “Descriptive Portrait Essay Example”

    -->

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *