40 Topics to Help With Descriptive Writing Assignments

A Helpful List for Writing Paragraphs, Essays, and Speeches

A child on a rope swing above the water
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Descriptive writing calls for close attention to factual and sensory details: show, don't tell. Whether your subject is as small as a strawberry or as large as a fruit farm, you should begin by observing your subject closely. Examine it with all five senses, and write down any details and descriptions that come to mind.

Next, go a little further afield with your list and associate your chosen topic or object with memories, opinions, and impressions. This list may give you some ideas for metaphors and possibly even a direction for your paragraph or essay. Then make a list of verbs that could be associated with your topic or object. This will help you have more variety than just "buzzing be" verbs and keep the writing and imagery descriptive and active.

After your brainstorming phase, go through your list and decide which details and descriptions you like the most and are most significant. Don't cross off the others, though. At this point in the project, you want to be open to any direction your imagination and writing take you.

Good advice from Steven King from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft:

If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe [your subject], and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition. ... Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium.

40 Topic Suggestions

To get you started, here are 40 topic suggestions for a descriptive paragraph, essay, or speech. These suggestions should help you discover a subject that especially interests you. If you don't start out with a topic that you're willing to spend some time with, your writing will show your lack of enthusiasm. If 40 is not enough, try this list of more than 400 writing topics.

If you need some advice for the drafting phase, see "Composing Descriptive Paragraphs and Essays" and "How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph."

  1. a waiting room
  2. a basketball, baseball glove, or tennis racket
  3. a smartphone
  4. a treasured belonging
  5. a laptop computer
  6. a favorite restaurant
  7. your dream house
  8. your ideal roommate
  9. a closet
  10. your memory of a place that you visited as a child
  11. a locker
  12. an accident scene
  13. a city bus or subway train
  14. an unusual room
  15. a child's secret hiding place
  16. a bowl of fruit
  17. an item left too long in your refrigerator
  18. backstage during a play or concert
  19. a vase of flowers
  20. a restroom in a service station
  21. a street that leads to your home or school
  22. your favorite food
  23. the inside of a spaceship
  24. the scene at a concert or athletic event
  25. an art exhibit
  26. an ideal apartment
  27. your old neighborhood
  28. a small-town cemetery
  29. a pizza
  30. a pet
  31. a photograph
  32. a hospital emergency room
  33. a particular friend or family member
  34. a painting
  35. a storefront window
  36. an inspiring view
  37. a work table
  38. a character from a book, movie, or television program
  39. a refrigerator or washing machine
  40. a Halloween costume


King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Scribner, 2000.

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Nordquist, Richard. "40 Topics to Help With Descriptive Writing Assignments." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/writing-topics-description-1690532. Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). 40 Topics to Help With Descriptive Writing Assignments. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/writing-topics-description-1690532 Nordquist, Richard. "40 Topics to Help With Descriptive Writing Assignments." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/writing-topics-description-1690532 (accessed June 1, 2023).