Your experiences involve more than people and places; they are also a series of events. When you write about these events as well as about people and places, you are telling an important part of your story. Using specific details to write about events helps readers share the experience.
Here are some notes for a description of an event—the writer’s first job. The notes tell about the event, about the people who were involved, and about the place where the event happened, but they do not give many details.
Got first job when in eighth grade
Helped grocery store owner take inventory
Worked on Sunday when store was closed
Counted all items on shelf
Fun at first, but later boring
Became tired, bored, and careless—made many errors
Grocery store owner talked to parents—had to do job again next Sunday
After using prewriting techniques to think of ideas, the writer begins to supply details about the event and about the people and place. As you read the following details, notice how you begin to share the writer’s experience.
• Mr. Pappas was the owner of the corner grocery store. He was a small, muscular man, completely bald, who always wore a blue bib-apron. [Details about how a person looks]
• The store was small and grubby. The meat counter was so small that there was barely room for a tray of hamburger, a large stack of wieners, and a dozen or so pork chops. [Details about a place]
• When Mr. Pappas told Dad that we had miscounted, Dad was very calm. The only thing he said was, “Next Sunday the counting will be done right!” [Details about how a person acts and talks]
• The store always smelled strongly of cheese. [Detail about how a place smells]
• Within two hours, counting shelf after shelf of cans began to bore me. I thought the day would never end. [Details about the writer's feelings]
• On the first day of counting, Mr. Pappas let me choose what I wanted for lunch. I made myself three bologna sandwiches, drank four cartons of milk, and finished up with two bananas. [Details about what happened]
• While I was counting, I began to think about how monotonous some jobs can be and decided to try harder in school so that I could spend my life doing interesting work. [Details about the writer's thoughts]
• All day I could hear Mr. Pappas muttering as he counted items. [Details of sound]
Although this series of notes has more details about the event and about people and the place, it still does not have enough. For example, the writer does not give details about how the errors were made or about Mr. Pappas’ reaction to them. Before writing this part of the composition for readers, the writer needs to supply these details.
The writer also needs to organize the details so that readers can easily follow the story. In the list above, for example, the writer tells about the father’s reaction to the errors before telling about the day spent counting. One way writers often organize events is to tell how they happen in time, a method called chronological organization. In this way the writer would tell first about getting the job, then about the store and its owner, and then about the day’s work, and so on.