Describe what your favorite chair looks like – without ever using the word chair.
So the saying goes. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you have no excuses for writing those thousand words during NaNoWriMo.
Before or during NaNoWriMo, look for pictures to represent your character, places, scenes, things, or events and add them to your research collection. When you run out of steam, turn to them for inspiration.
Look for what is in the picture to inspire you, but also look outside the frame. What is the person wearing? Why? What does that outfit do for them? Is it a uniform? Does it work with their recreational activity, or possibly work for their best-dressed work uniform in a corporate office?
Where are they? Do their clothes match the environment they are in? Why are they there?
If it is a place, go inside the picture to see what it beyond the bushes or trees, through the doors, around the edges in your mind so you see the whole picture.
Visual inspiration may come from a variety of forms. A picture in a magazine might trigger memories or concepts while having nothing directly to do with them. Add those to your collection to stimulate your imagination.
Also take advantage of Image Search on Google and other search engines. Type in a word or phrase and switch to the image view and scroll to find an image that catches your imagination. View the image alone and print it to add it to your collection if necessary.
As you work your way through NaNoWriMo and your novel, memoir, or whatever writing you choose during the November writing sprint, unleash your inner descriptive voice and make your sentences more interesting by adding more descriptors. Look for words or phrases that paint a picture.
The ball hit the window.
The black and white soccer ball Bob kicked with all his might hit the Peterson’s large front picture window with a dull thud.
Close your eyes and picture the scene. Pay attention to all your senses. Can you hear the sound Bob might make as he kicked the ball? Can you hear the thud of the window rebounding from the collision? Can you see Bob? Is he dripping with sweat or have glowing red cheeks from the exertion?
Let your imagination become a paint brush with strokes that put us in the middle of the action, feeling everything you do in the moment.
It went “Zip” when it moved
And “Bop” when it stopped
And “Whirrr” when it stood still
I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.
The Tom Paxton song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary, as well as John Denver, describes a thing that defines description, a child’s toy that was amusing all the same.
When it comes to describing the physical shape of an object, we can’t get away with just the sound effects. We need the words.
The basic geometric shapes are:
Then we add variations on the above. These are geometric shapes based upon lines and planes, but what about solid figures or 3-dimensional shapes?
- rectangular prism
What shape is a carrot? Do you know? Is it a triangle? No, it’s an inverted cone. Is the sun a ball? Yes, it is a ball, more specifically, the sun is a sphere.
The words you use to describe a shape may be technical or playful, finding similes to represent their shapes, such as “he was as thin and lanky as a much-used toothbrush.”
Did you know that there are some personality tests that use geometric shapes to represent a person or personality?
From “Geometric Shapes: Simple and Unusual Personality Test,” if the triangle is your preferred shape:
This form symbolizes leadership. Main ability of triangles is to focus on goals and deeply and quickly analyze situations. A Triangle is a very confident person who wants to be right in everything. Triangles find it difficult to admit their mistakes, are easy to train, and absorb information like a sponge. Their career gives their life meaning.
Here are some charts and web pages to add to your writer’s toolbox to help you define the geometric shape of the objects, and possibly the characters, in your writing. We’ve also included some lists of words to describe the shape of objects.
- Geometric Shapes Chart – Geometry Playground (pdf)
- Shapes – Basic geometry – Khan Academy
- Geometry – Math’s Fun
- List of Geometric Shapes – Math Salamanders
- Favorite Shape Reveals Personality – Weekly World News
- Words used to describe the shape of objects – synonyms and related words – Macmillan Dictionary
- Descriptive Words List of Adjectives for Shapes & Patterns – Descriptive Words
- Word List: Shapes and Forms of Objects – Phrontistery
- Shapes Vocabulary Word List – EnchantedLearning.com
The prompt came from the book “Art as Experience” by John Dewey. In one section he describes that for art to be whole, it has to have its own unity. Each word in a poem has to come from what came before it, and contribute to the words that come after.
The example is an excerpt from Wordsworth’s “The Prelude.”
…the wind and sleety rain,
And all the business of the elements,
The single sheep, and the one blasted tree,
And the bleak music from that old stone wall,
The noise of wood and water, and the mist
That on the line of each of these two roads
Advanced in such indisputable shapes.
The wind as the noun is not described in adjectives but in the descriptions of what followed in the poem, the single sheep, blasted tree, bleak music from the stone wall, noise of wood and water…all paint the sense and emotional quality of the state of the wind.
Part one of the prompt was to write at least 7 words that leave you with a negative feeling, each one building upon the other. Then write at least 7 words that leave you with a positive feeling, building upon the previous one.
Part two of the prompt was to write something about the negative or positive effects on the topic of love and kindness, growing the feeling as the word choices push the reader forward with the growing emotions.
The prompt is based upon “Hiatus,” a poem by David Feela published in LabLetter in April 2015.
A pot of tea steeping
on the marble sill, its steam
clouding the window.
Sunrise on the counter
like the yolk of a broken egg,
oh happy disaster of morning…
Write a descriptive poem or short prose. Edit it to focus writing with texture adjectives and verbs. Choose words that are visual, painting a textural picture such as marble sill not just window sill, steam clouding the window not just steam rising, sunrise on counter not light, etc.