Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thesaurus trails

bogey.jpgBegin with a word and follow a trail of words through the thesaurus.

This is easiest with a thesaurus on your computer but it will work with an old fashioned hardcopy too. (There's an online Thesaurus a The Free Dictionary. Click the Word/Article radio button. The thesaurus words will be below the dictionary definitions.)

Start with any word: a word that has meaning for you, a new favorite, one chosen at random, one with a definition that might touch on a lot of things or something common place.

Write the word down then look it up in the thesaurus. Jot down one or more words that intrigue you. (It can be fun to deliberately choose a word that means something very different than the meaning you had in mind.) Then look up the new words. Keep going, looking up the words you've found until a trail comes to a dead end that offers no new words. You can then go back and choose one of the other words you chose from the thesaurus and follow that.

Keep following trails for 10-15 minutes or as long as you're having fun :-)

If you're only going to choose one or two words each time, you can write them down in a simple list. If you're going to choose several words each time you might want to make a cluster diagram by writing your original word in the center and then writing the words you chose from the thesaurus around it. (There's an example of a cluster diagram at Clustering characters.)

When you're done, look over the patterns and connections in the trails.

Pick one trail and use that as a writing prompt for 10-15 minutes.

(Inspired by Thesaurus Maze at About Teen Writing.)

Here's a few simple trails I created:
  • animal -- crude -- earthy -- dusty -- cold -- passionless -- cold -- black -- swarthy -- dark
  • beauty -- charmer -- necromancer -- prophet -- haruspex -- augur -- imply -- hint -- fantasy
  • demon -- evil spirit -- bogey -- aircraft -- flyover -- overpass -- span -- straddle -- perspective -- futurism
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