Thursday, December 06, 2007

Splashed with white

window.jpgPick one of the following rooms and let the description inspire what follows for 10-15 minutes.

When you're done writing, go to the The Room Description Generator and generate 50 rooms. The wording in some is a bit awkward since they're all automatically generated. Read through the descriptions. Note when your attention gets sparked. While the writing won't be winning any Pulitzer Prizes ;-) the fact that it's so starkly descriptive makes the attention grabbing phrases stand out even more. In contrast, prize winning writing tends to be so well crafted that it leaves you overwhelmed with the writer's skill. This is baby steps.

Give some thought to why something grabbed your attention to help sparkle up your own descriptions. For me it was four things: the contradictions, the scents, the action descriptors and the concrete images.

Contradiction suggest a deliberate action with reasons that aren't apparent. Which is one of the foundational rules of writing: raise questions in your reader's mind. We're pattern seeking creatures. When things don't immediately fit we subconsciously seek reasons why they've happened as they've happened. Why would a grand room with dark rose walls have a packed floor?

The rooms are static but then the scents imply something has happened (again raising questions): a person has passed through (cologne), some event happened (mildew from flood or rain or broken roof). Sound would have worked too. In fact it's another of the foundational rules of writing: bring in all the senses.

While I don't know if the writer of the phrases intended the walls to be literally splashed, it's a more dynamic image than painted. :-)

Concrete images is fairly self explanatory. They create strong images in our minds: "warm brown evocative of cocoa" (also worked in a sense there), "The floor is a patchwork of small rugs."

  • It's a simple room, with walls splashed in springtime green and a floor that's peeling linoleum. It is adequately lit, though rather cavernous.

  • It's a vast room, but quite brightly lit. The walls are obscured entirely by floor to ceiling bookshelves, broken up by lacy, pale pink curtains on the windows.

  • The floor in this room is dark blue carpet. The walls are an ugly orange with a border of stark white along the top and bottom. An unpleasant mildew smell is noticeable, until the surprising draft from the open window dissipates it.

  • The room is brightly lit, and expansive. The floor is dark blue carpet. One wall is carefully wallpapered in springtime green, while the rest are a warm brown evocative of cocoa.

  • The room is brightly lit, and confined. The floor is a dizzying pattern of tiling. One wall is painted in the colour of eggshells, while the rest are lavender. A burnt odor is palpable, until the strong wind from the open window dissipates it.

  • The scent of autumn leaves fills the air in this spacious room. The floor is a patchwork of small rugs, while the walls are cheerily splashed with white.

  • The walls in this grand room are covered in graffiti. Strong cologne hangs in the air. The floor is an intricate design of ceramic tiles.

  • This grand room is sunny. The walls are dark rose. Cigar smoke is noticeable. The floor is nothing but packed dirt.

  • There are sheer curtains decorating the open windows in this vast room. The odor of unwashed bodies that suffuses the room is stirred by the warm wind from the windows.

  • The room is almost lightless, and cramped. The floor is carpeted in nondescript beige. One wall is painted in a drab white, while the rest are lavender.

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