How to Write Descriptions (continued)

A previous post shared the first part of a class on writing descriptions. The first exercise was writing a description of a classmate. This is the second part of that class.

Exercise: The class was asked to close their eyes, and I turned off the lights. They then were asked to pull up their very first memory. As with each part of this contemplation, they had a few minutes to contemplate before moving on to the next question. Next they conjured up their childhood room. They might have moved several times, but should choose one of the rooms they had lived in as their childhood room. They should consider color, furniture, light, decorations, windows, and anyone who shared the room. Then they were asked to go outside and look at their house or apartment building from the outside. Were they standing on concrete or grass? Were there people going by or were they alone? How did they get in and out of the building? And so on. They were asked to go back into the house, to where the family was seated at dinner.  Who was at the table? What kind of table was it? What food were they eating? Was music playing? After experiencing the family dinner table, they were asked to return to their own room.

After a few quiet minutes, I turned on the lights again and asked them to describe their childhood room. In both classes, they wrote at great length.

In the previous posting, the class wrote a description of a classmate — that is, a live model. The description of their childhood room, in contrast, came from their memories and imaginations. They concurred, without a single dissent, that it was easier to write from memory than live. This provided an opportunity to note that the human mind makes stories and myths out of previous experience in order to be able to access tidy packages. The live experience has not yet been packaged into a memory so was harder to parse.

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