“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story.” –Stephen King

Stephen King wrote about description in stories. But the same advice is true for descriptive essays.  Get your readers engaged by making them sense and connect with everything you’ve written in your essay.  

And you do this by describing important details, and characteristics or features about the person, place, object or experience in your essay.  This blog post has 12 descriptive essay prompts that will help you find a topic with interesting elements you can describe in detail.  And the more detail and elements you add to a descriptive essay the better it will be.

So, read through these descriptive essay prompts and find the one that will work best for you.

How to Select a Descriptive Essay Topic

Before you select a descriptive essay prompt, see if you can show and not tell your readers about the characteristics, actions, and emotions in that essay topic.

Maybe you’ve heard writers say, “Show Don’t Tell.”   This is an approach some writers use to make their writing more descriptive.  The word “show” means to portray or illustrate feelings and actions.  And “tell” is when a writer says what the feelings and actions are.

For example, “The black poodle snarled and growled.” (showing) vs. “The black poodle was angry and fierce.” (telling)

In the example above, the first sentence shows that the black poodle was angry because it snarled and growled.  The second sentence says or tells us that the dog was angry and fierce.

Use the “Show Don’t Tell” approach in your descriptive essay by asking these questions about the 5 senses:

  1. What did you see?
  2. What did you hear?
  3. What did you touch?
  4. What did you smell?
  5. What did you taste?

You probably won’t have answers for all these questions.   (Or at least if you write about a mountain, I hope you can’t describe how tastes.) But write “Show Don’t Tell” content wherever you can in your essay.

12 Unusual Descriptive Essay Prompts

The 12 descriptive essay prompts here, give you the freedom to develop your content in different ways and with a lot of sensory details. They are divided into 4 categories: person, place, object, and experience.  Each category has 3 descriptive essay writing ideas.   For each descriptive essay prompt, brainstorm how you can develop that essay.

Descriptive Essay Prompts About a Person:

# 1 Describe the strangest person you ever met. Strange people are easy to remember, and if you remember a different, odd or unique person you’ll have a lot of information you can write on.  Before you choose this topic, brainstorm a few ideas about this person.

Questions to develop this essay topic: What seemed strange about this person?  What characteristics did he/she possess? How did you feel about this person?

# 2 Describe a person you envied. Envy or jealousy is a powerful emotion.  When you focus on a person you were jealous of there are reasons and characteristics on why you felt that way.   This is what you convey in your essay.

Questions to develop this essay topic: What traits or characteristics did this person have?  What did he/she look like?  How did this person act?  What made you envy him/her?

# 3 Describe an inspiring friend or family member. We remember people who inspire us.  And people love to read about inspiring people.  If you describe an inspiring person think about the impact that person made on you.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What did this person do that was inspiring?   What were his/her personal characteristics? How did he/she act toward others?  How did he/she treat you?

Descriptive Essay Prompts About a Place

# 4 Describe a spooky or haunted place. If you describe a scary place include a lot of sensory details.  Spooky and haunted places are memorable.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What did this place look like?  Where was it located?  What did you see, hear, smell or feel at this place?  Did you find someone or something that scared you?  Why is this place spooky?12 Unusual Descriptive Essay Prompts # Writing

# 5 Describe a place you loved as a child. People love to know things about another person’s childhood. A great way to show who you are is to describe a place that was important to you.  If you select this writing topic make sure you remember this place well.

Questions to develop this essay topic: How did this place look?  What did you do at this place?  Was anyone else at this place?  How did you feel about the place?

# 6 Describe a beautiful place in nature. You could describe a mountain, body of water, campground, desert etc.  Or any other place that is outdoors and part of nature.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What did this place look like?  How did you feel when you were there? Did you hear, smell, taste or touch anything at the place? Was there anyone else with you?  What did you do at this place?

Descriptive Essay Prompts About an Object

# 7 Describe a lucky object. This can be any type of lucky object, a good luck charm, an heirloom object etc.  Select something you believe brings you good luck.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What are the characteristics of this object? How is it used?  What makes this a lucky object?

# 8 Describe a piece of art. This can be a photograph, painting, sculpture, etc.  There are a lot of sensory details you can include in a descriptive essay about a piece of art.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What is the appearance of this object?  Can you touch it?  If so, how does it feel?   What are the emotions you have when you see this piece of art?

# 9 Describe an object used in your favorite sport or hobby. If you have a favorite sport or hobby describe an object that is relevant to that sport.  For example, if you play tennis, describe a tennis racket.  Or if you collect coins, describe a special coin from your collection.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What are the characteristics or features of this object?  How is it used?  What is significant about this object?  What are some important sensory details you can write about?

Descriptive Essay Prompts about an Experience

# 10 Describe the first time you drove a car or rode a bicycle. First-time experiences are emotional and significant to people.  If you haven’t driven a car, or ridden a bicycle write about another first-time experience.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What did you see, hear, touch, smell or taste during this experience?  What did you do?  Were others involved?  If so, what did they do? How did you feel during this experience?  How do you feel about it now?

# 11 Describe a hike or special walk you took. Do you recall a hike you took or a walk on a trail, path or street? If so describe the place and what you did there.

Questions to develop this essay topic:  What was the place you were at like? What did you hear, see, smell, taste, or touch during this experience?  What did you do?  What did anyone else do?

# 12 Describe a happy memory. Write about a happy experience you can remember clearly.   This topic involves remembering what occurred and how you felt during that experience.

Questions to develop this essay topic:   What made this experience happy? What happened?  What did you do? Who else was there?  Can you describe them?


The key to writing a descriptive essay is to show or portray to a reader the significant elements of a person, place, object or experience.  So, select an essay topic that you connect with, and develop it with sensory details.  If you do this you’ll achieve what Stephen King does in his writing and “make the reader a sensory participant.”  When you do that your reader will want to keep reading your essay until the end.

They might even wish your essay continued, so they could read even more!

Comment below with your favorite descriptive writing prompt.

P.S.  If you know someone who could benefit from this post please share it with them.

Photo by Fabian Irsara on Unsplash