|Photographs can help provide detail for descriptive writing|
One of my lightbulb moments in writing came when it finally sank in that specific was better than general. For example, we could say:
The boy bounced the ball.
But we can all see that's pretty vague. It doesn't conjure any clear image in the reader's mind. Perhaps say:
Bobby Reynolds dribbled the basketball across the court.
Now we have a better idea of what's happening. And I'd have to admit, that last one is how I'd probably describe a boy playing basketball. Other than 'dribble', I have no knowledge of the game. Truth is, if I don't know what a basketball game really looks like, then I won't be painting the picture with my words. So how can we get better detail? By studying the specific. If you were to watch some YouTube clips of a game, read up on the rules and lingo or even better, turn up for a live game, you'd get a better feel for the actions, emotions and surroundings.
In our writing group last week, we looked at improving our descriptions by using more specific detail. This was a really fun exercise (adapted from one I found in Don't Forget to Write), it involved writing and drawing (but don't worry, because no amazing artistic skills are required). You could use just about any topic for this exercise, I chose to use animals. Here's the steps:
- Each participant is given the name of an animal (big red kangaroo, chimpanzee, octopus, draft horse, snow owl, sea turtle, rhinoceros, crocodile, etc).
- Once you know which animal you are using, try to draw a picture of it. There should be no visual aids or prompts, just draw from memory.
- Write a short descriptive passage about that creature.
- Now I hand out to the participants a figurine and blown up photograph of the creature, to compare to their drawing.
- You redraw the creature, this time taking particular notice of the small details you overlooked previously. For example, the way the fur/skin/feathers/scales sit, how the creature holds itself, the particular shape of the eyes, etc.
- Once you're happy with your new sketch, write a new descriptive passage, this time including some of those smaller details.
|I love the little ears on the seal, I would have forgotten those without a photo.|
|All the animal pics on today's blog are taken by Tim Clancy|
|Picture from The Wiggles official site, click to visit www.wiggletime.com|
Lilly spread her arm out in front. The water was thick and bubbles effervesced from her breathing apparatus, making patterns up towards the blue light above. The octopus swayed from side to side. It floated a little closer, curious about the girl in front of it. It’s long tentacles swished and curled about, each taking their own direction, moving to their own silent rhythm. On each tentacle little suction cups pulsated. It was the eyes that surprised Lilly the most. The way they’d look right into hers, taking her in. You’re a funny thing, they seemed to say. Now the tentacles encircles Lilly’s hand, caressing it gently. It was patting her like she was its new pet.
|My sketch of an octopus after seeing a photo.|
So try to get the specific detail in your description writing. A few carefully placed key words or verbs will help the reader find the scene believable. Now you try - maybe watch a clip of someone playing basketball and write a short passage? Share it if you want to. I love to see what you're writing!