Home Forums Writing Exercises Descriptions SnackWrites #1: Descriptions that do double duty

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  • #1179

    admin
    Keymaster

    For members’ solutions to the first SnackWrites exercise: Descriptions that do double duty.

    This exercise was submitted by Daniel Abraham.

    As an exercise, when you are in an environment — school, office, restaurant, street, car, anything will do — look at it for one or two details which could suggest something about the people who live there. Write one or two descriptive sentences that only reference concrete, specific details that invite the reader to fill in the rest of the scene.

    Examples: A pink plastic hairbrush lay next to the sink. The air smelled of artificial freshener and vomit.

    The barstools were upholstered in red vinyl with yellow foam showing through at the cracks.

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    #1203

    JoshG
    Participant

    The four windowless walls were bare except for a laminated sign that listed the rules, and a camera. The chair had broad, padded arms, but no restraints.

    #1237

    tonycaganer
    Participant

    The oxygen’s wheezing made a weird counterpoint to the thin Christmas carols coming from the TV. On the side table, an unused rosary lay piled behind a half-full tumbler of Scotch.

    #1243

    tonycaganer
    Participant

    Thanks for a great exercise, Daniel, and one that can definitely bear repeating. I think this is like writing a Zen koan with a sharp focus on the significant details, and often indicates time or season. What really adds punch, though, is finding contrasting elements that can establish dramatic tension. Easier said than done…

    #1244

    tonycaganer
    Participant

    The trucks and SUVs barely fit into the tight spaces of the old diner, leaving little room to squeeze past the now-useless trays. In the flickering fluorescent lights inside, grey heads and bent bodies likewise pushed the limits of the narrow booths where teens once casually sprawled.

    #1245

    JoshG
    Participant

    It was cold in The Cyclone Cafe, but the coffee and the green chili were hot. Her sleek, black phone sat on the fake Formica table.

    Note: My biggest challenge following the instructions of the exercise, as I read them, is not using similes or metaphors as part of the description. For example, for this description, I first wrote it as, “Her phone sat on the fake Formica table like an artifact from outer space.”

    Also, my description was influenced by a comment from tonycaganer, that he liked to use details that contrasted with each other to help highlight the dramatic tension in the scene.

    #1246

    tonycaganer
    Participant

    I agree, not using similes and metaphors is oddly difficult, maybe because they show a particular viewpoint and interior world. Yet the exercise is not writing parables, but fiction. Another thing I find a challenge is not including some action for the same reason, and I wasn’t able to avoid it in the latest.

    #1402

    martinakrystal
    Participant

    Hello

    Descriptions are tricky in part because they’re working best when they’re doing double duty.

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    #1403

    lezasmith
    Participant

    Hello

    Descriptions are tricky in part because they’re working best when they’re doing double duty.

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    #1406

    lezasmith
    Participant

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    #1415

    rickytrnr
    Participant

    Hello

    great physical description does more than create a visual in the reader’s mind.

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