A frequent favourite observation journal activity: mixing up descriptions (either by trading adjectives or using one word as a simile for the other).
(For related posts and other examples, see variations on descriptions, and other posts under the “descriptions” category.)
This time I was trading descriptions between bones and flowers. I chose this pair because of things I’d seen during the day (on the left page) but also because of A Project I was working on (which you will hear more about soon). Although, in the end, more of the observation page got into the final text.
Bones flecked and spotted like the speckles on a lily, a spine like a spire of foxgloves, the peony-tight cluster of the knee. Flowers bleached and brittle, honeysuckle petals curled like ribs and collar-bone, flowers small as teeth.
Another benefit of this exercise, additional to sheer enjoyment and those advantages I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is that it highlights specific areas of vocabulary I’m excited to study more — botanical terms, or anatomical structures, etc.
(It’s also quite useful for ensuring thematically consistent descriptions, e.g. when attempting to use bird or plantlike descriptions for particular characters, as in Flyaway.)
Writing/illustration activity (similar to those on previous posts)
- Pick two nouns (flower and bone, or daisy and skull, or cat and mountain…).
- Use one word to suggest a list of descriptions for (or ways to draw) the other. Three ways to do this:
- Make a list of ways you would usually describe (or portray) noun A and force them onto noun B. (Osseous, calcified, chalky, porous, smooth, ecru, knuckled…)
- Find ways in which noun B is like noun A (many of the examples on the page above).
- Find ways noun A is the same as noun B.
- Then repeat the exercise in the other direction.
- Bonus round 1: jot down a paragraph or poem or sketch out an illustration using a cluster of those descriptions.
- Bonus round 2: Make some notes about what you noticed — which comparisons were easy or hard, which were the most interesting, where did they snap you into a new awareness or understanding of an object, where did your (visual or verbal) vocabulary serve well or where did you suddenly wish you had more resources (and where could you enjoyably get them)
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