Daily Archives: July 2, 2007

The multitude of description, part three

Using details that work

As I said before, short, to-the-point, vivid description is hard to accomplish. To hone that skill, this time we’ll describe something… without ever saying what it is or using clichéd words. Here’s the challenge:

  1. Describe a pool room without mentioning the green felt, the clack of the balls, or the haze of cigarette smoke;
  2. Describe a professional basketball player without mentioning his height;
  3. Describe the ocean without mentioning waves or boats;
  4. Describe the place were you are now, without using “is”, “are”, “was”, or “were.”

Describe a pool room without mentioning the green felt, the clack of the balls, or the haze of cigarette smoke;

The door opened onto a long, narrow room. Daylight barely penetrated through three narrow windows, half hidden by dark shades, the glass panes yellowed by the soot of nicotine. Two air conditioners were bolted to the low ceiling and their noise merged with the tinny sound of the radio playing a C&W station and the raucous voices of the men in the room. The bar stood at the far end, and to get to it, each patron had to negotiate the jungle of pool cues barring the way. Hanging lamps, strategically placed above each table, barely pushed out the surrounding shadows. Ellen took a deep breath to calm her nerves and knew immediately it was a mistake when the thickness of the air nearly choked her.

Describe a professional basketball player without mentioning his height.

Khalim sat down on the bench, out of breath after his turn on the court. The bench was too low, and his knobby knees came up to his nose. Heaving deep breaths, he followed the game, pining to be back in it, to weave his way between the players and with just a small hop, dunk the ball into the basket.

Describe the ocean without mentioning waves or boats.

From where Ellen stood, high above it, the ocean extended outward like a vast slab of grey slate, bound on three sides by high cliffs. If she were a giant, she thought, and found a chalk big enough, she would write messages on it for the Gods.

Describe the place were you are now, without using “is”, “are”, “was”, or “were.”

The sun shines through the window onto the table where I sit. The keyboard clicks under my fingers while I watch my words form, letter by letter, on the screen of my monitor. The computer hums. I stop, searching for the right expression, and look around me. The important tools of my art surround me; my books, a calendar, the telephone, a box of Kleenex. I weigh whether I should put on my earphones and listen to a CD while I write. My stomach starts to growl. Time to stop and go downstairs for breakfast.

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