Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Exercise: Description

I try to give good examples for my rhetoric students to imitate. When I cannot find something the right length, or if my impoverished reading has simply left me dry, I will write something of my own for them to imitate. For my tenth graders, I wrote a very short description of one of my sons as a model for them to imitate; as they were asked to write a description of one of their family members. While it isn't a complete Progymnasmata exercise, it follows some of its basic principles. Below is the assignment, and my example.

In the space below, describe the physical appearance of a family member. Start at the head and move down. Use an economy of words, preferring the concrete image to the abstract adjective. You want brevity (saying much with few words), clarity (using words that “show” what you are talking about), and plausibility (what you say is “imaginable”). I’ve given you an example on the back.

Example: A Description of Ezra

Golden wisps shooting forth, dance upon his crown until they fall upon his snowy brow. Two seas sparkle on either side of his tiny foothill of a nose, begging to be climbed by fingertips and puckered lips. Plump cheeks, like ripe grapes are fit to burst as his smile pushes them aside to reveal his ivory treasures. His squat and slender neck plants itself between two pendulums in perpetual motion around a belly that rivals a corpulent Buddha. Unsteady pillars carry his ambling carriage through tumbles unnumbered, yet ever rising (or squatting); propelled on by some new adventure. 

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