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Jacquin
November 10th, 2003, 03:22 AM
Good morning.

Welcome to the first of our writing exercises. The idea of this one is simply to let your creative juices flow and then go back and tidy it up. It may seem a bit odd, but give it a try. You may well be surprised!

The idea is to describe your surroundings (or any scene you want, after all who would know?) in less than 300 words. Now this may be challenging enough, but we don’t stop there. Once you are done, cut and paste it (or re-write, your choice) and remove all the adjectives and adverbs. Once this is done paste it again, but this time you are allowed one, yes ONE adjective or adverb. Place your luxury descriptive word wherever you want, but only once. Incidentally this took me a little less than half an hour.

To clarify here is mine.

A description of my surroundings in less than 300 words. (for clarity I have put the actual decription in bold.

The ceiling is low, covered with scales of artex, a solitary naked bulb burns brightly in the centre. The walls are lined with books stacked loosely one upon another. A number of swords lie randomly propped in the corner next to a serving hatch in the wall through to the kitchen. Along one wall runs a red brick fireplace which contains wine bottles covered in many candles worth of wax. The bricks are topped with a heavy dark wooden beam forming a mantelpiece upon which stands a small lamp, many photos and a broken arrow.

The corner of the room is dominated by the dark stack of electronic equipment winking tiny eyes of amber and red. A pair of light honey coloured curtains cover the patio doors which lead into the somewhat overgrown garden hidden under the blanket of night, by the side of them stands a small rocking chair, it’s wood dark and scuffed with age. A guitar lies where it was left against the sofa, it’s deep glossy sheen countering the light leather of the cushions. Washing hangs forlornly over an airer drying slowly in the warm draft from the heating vent. The hum of computers fills the air merging seamlessly with the sounds of the heating from the next room.

The carpet is mainly clear, the odd book marring the expanse of butterscotch, wires trail carelessly across the room.

That’ll do, it took me 232 words and I think I pretty much covered everything, now lets try it without any adjectives or adverbs. (deep breath!)

The ceiling is covered with artex, a bulb burns in the centre. The walls are lined with books stacked one upon another. A number of swords lie propped in the corner next to a hatch in the wall through to the kitchen. Along one wall runs a brick fireplace which contains wine bottles covered in wax. The bricks are topped with a beam forming a mantelpiece upon which stands a lamp, many photos and an arrow.

The corner of the room is dominated by the stack of electronic equipment winking eyes. A pair of curtains cover the patio doors which lead into the garden hidden under the blanket of night, by the side of them stands a rocking chair, it’s wood scuffed with age. A guitar lies where it was left against the sofa, it’s sheen countering the leather of the cushions. Washing hangs over an airer drying in the draft from the heating vent. The hum of computers fills the air merging with the sounds of the heating from the next room.

The carpet is mainly clear, a book marring the expanse of butterscotch, wires trail across the room.

I think I got them all, there may be one or two, but as I’m not sure I’m gonna leave them. It does seem to have made one sentence in particular irrelevant. Even so it is now down to 190 words.

Now with one luxury adjective or adverb…

The ceiling is covered with scales of artex, a bulb burns in the centre. The walls are lined with books stacked one upon another. A number of swords lie propped in the corner next to a hatch in the wall through to the kitchen. Along one wall runs a brick fireplace which contains wine bottles covered in wax. The bricks are topped with a beam forming a mantelpiece upon which stands a lamp, many photos and an arrow.

The corner of the room is dominated by the stack of electronic equipment winking red eyes. A pair of curtains cover the patio doors which lead into the garden hidden under the blanket of night, by the side of them stands a rocking chair, it’s wood scuffed with age. A guitar lies where it was left against the sofa, it’s sheen countering the leather of the cushions. Washing hangs over an airer drying in the draft from the heating vent. The hum of computers fills the air merging with the sounds of the heating from the next room.

The carpet is mainly clear, a book marring the expanse of butterscotch, wires trail across the room.

191 words.

Original less 20%, more than I’d expected, the question is of course which works better? I think as a stand alone description the first one is more prosaic, but as a description of a room within a novel or short story the second is more than enough. I honestly think I could cut it more. I’ll wait and see what you say before I do though…

Whose turn is it now?

Dawnstorm
November 10th, 2003, 03:41 PM
I'm afraid to describe the room I'm sitting in; it's a mess. The carpet could do with some vacuuming; books clutter the little round table in the centre of the room, the piano, and part of the red couch - though thankfully not the two matching chairs. There's a third bookless chair, actually, but it doesn't match the couch. I'm not putting books on chairs: I need space for my clothes.

What I'm sitting on now is a rather old swivel-chair (seat number 4), which I distinctly remember having a backrest once. Before me, there's that seventeen inch monitor, standing on a massive wooden desk that also accommodates my computer and printer to my right, and the telephone, modem and table lamp to the left. On the far side of the room there's the music section, complete with piano and stereo-system. I especially like the piano, and I'd like it even better, if it didn't have a Mozart-head carved into it as an ornament. The stereo system stands upon a small cupboard, which contains part of my record collection. There's a wooden drawer from some long forgotten piece of furniture standing between the cupboard and the piano, containing some more records. On the other side of the little cupboard there's a bigger one, which contains books, classics, works of philosophy, old ones, left overs from my grand parents.

I could describe the rest of the room: ceiling (contains a few cracks), windows... that kind of thing, but I won't, as that would be boring.

[255]

I'm afraid to describe the room I'm sitting in; it's a mess. The carpet could do with vacuuming; books clutter the table in the centre of the room, the piano, and part of the couch - though not the chairs that go with the couch. There's another chair, but it doesn't match the couch. I'm not putting books on chairs: I need space for my clothes.

What I'm sitting on while I type this is a swivel-chair (seat number 4), which I remember having a backrest once. Before me, there's that seventeen inch monitor, standing on a desk that also accommodates my computer and printer, the telephone, modem and table lamp. Crossing the room I find the music section, complete with piano and stereo-system. I love the piano but not the Mozart-head carved into it as an ornament. The stereo system stands upon a cupboard, which contains part of my record collection. There's a drawer from a piece of furniture I don't think I have known standing between the cupboard and the piano, containing more records. Next to the cupboard with the stereo system there's one more cupboard, towering above the first. It contains books, classics, works of philosophy, books that have seen a lot of dust in their years, left overs from my grand parents.

I could describe the rest of the room: ceiling (containing cracks), windows..., but I won't. Doing so would bore me.

[236]

*snip*

Doing so would bore me terribly.

[237]

===

Comments on what I've done:

1. I found that by eliminating adjectives/adverbs you often eliminate irrelevant babble ("little round table"...)

2. My word count didn't decrease as drastically as Jacquin's. That's because, sometimes, I felt I had to keep the meaning, but I had to get rid of the adjective. That involved re-writing, and it got more verbose. At least once, it was worth the re-writing, though ("old ones" --> "books that have seen a lot of dust in their years")

3. Comparisons become awkward once you eliminate adjectives. ("small"/"bigger cupboard" - in that case there might have been another noun for "small cupboard", but I was to lazy to look for it... :o ). However, if you're going to do comparisons I think adjectives are the way to go.

4. My adjective of choice was the "terribly" at the very end of the section. I didn't much like the way it ended, so I thought a nice little exaggeration would do the trick (that's what I used the adverb for).


Waiting for comments... :)

===

Comments about Jacquin's piece:

I feel that sometimes the missing adjectives are really missing. An Example:

"dark stack of electronic equipment winking tiny eyes of amber and red" --> "the stack of electronic equipment winking eyes" Either bring back the adjectives, here, or get rid of "winking eyes".

I feel similarly about the "solitary naked bulb" (though you don't need both adjectives), but I'm not really sure, here.

As it is, I feel the first one works better, although it does contain a few ad-thingys too much.

If you cut it even more, however, the piece may well take on a different quality, and it might work out better ("The ceiling: scales of artex around a central bulb..." - just a thought...)

===

Next, please. :D

Jacquin
November 10th, 2003, 04:03 PM
Hi Ds, thanks for jumping in. Also thanks for your comments. I agree pretty much completely with what you said, I like the winking eyes of amber and red, I just couldn't see colours as anything but adjectives. I tried my best to simply do the exercise rather than allow myself to edit it properly but it isn't easy.

My commments on yours:

The first paragraph I had to re-read tofind out where you'd snipped, it felt right the second time round. The swivel chair certainly doesn't need to be old as well as having had a a back once, though long forgotten works better than the alternative. Perhaps simply a drawer would work?

I like your choice for the single adverb, it does stand out when you only have one.

I would agree that sometimes they are necessary but they can certainly lead to overly ornate description that is dificult to read. I suppose the trick is to use exercises like this one to make sure you know when you use them.

If I may finish on a quote...

"Next, please. :D"

Dawnstorm
November 10th, 2003, 11:25 PM
Originally posted by Jacquin
I tried my best to simply do the exercise rather than allow myself to edit it properly but it isn't easy.

Isn't easy, is it? But it's the point of the exercises...


Perhaps simply a drawer would work?

I really wanted the reference to an unknown piece of furniture, but that might well be one of those idiosyncrasys nobody but me gets and is thus perfectly disposable. Worth thinking about. :)

Thanks, for the comments.


I suppose the trick is to use exercises like this one to make sure you know when you use them.

Certainly makes you think... :)


I just couldn't see colours as anything but adjectives.

Read this sentence and had a revelation:

In expressions like "eyes of amber and red" the colours aren't adjectives; they're nouns (dictionary supports that).

You could say (you shouldn't, but you could): "eyes of the dullest amber and the brightes red", or "eyes of an unprecedent amber and red". If it takes an article, it's a noun, isn't it?

Not that it's all that important for the sake of this exercise. ;)

Jacquin
November 16th, 2003, 11:21 AM
Come on guys, I know there are some of you out there who want to post here. Don't be embarassed, just post away!

We neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed you :D

J

Dawnstorm
November 16th, 2003, 12:16 PM
Originally posted by Jacquin
Come on guys, I know there are some of you out there who want to post here. Don't be embarassed, just post away!

We neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed you :D

J

Yeah, I'm going away for two weeks, with minimal internet access, so please don't let it die while I'm away.

Please?

:)

Sammie
November 20th, 2003, 04:17 PM
Ok, here goes….

I’m afraid mine is rather longer than the word limit (428!) but when I started to cut it down to 300 I realised I was chopping out adjectives, which rather defeated the point, so I’ve left it intact. Here goes…..

With adjectives and stuff:

You can see the hum in the air. Forty computer fans working overtime. All around me is the tap and clatter of students trying to type on keyboards that should have been thrown out 2 years ago. A mobile phone rings, and the door slams as the owner leaves the room. Her voice echoes in the corridor and creeps back through the paper-thin walls to distract me.
I think my computer is broken. The monitor is yellowing with age, and the display blurs in and out of focus. Ripples run up the screen as another phone goes off next to me. The ‘r’ doesn’t work very well; I have to return every few words to insert it into a nonsensical word.
The room is too small. The girl beside me is talking right into my ear, and her bag is on my foot. The work surfaces have spindly metal legs that run right down in front of every chair – carefully positioned for maximum discomfort. They clang discordantly whenever a desperate student attempts to pull their chair in further to peer at the flickering mystery of their ancient monitor. This isn’t made any easier by the fact that the chairs are almost all broken. They are designed to be swivel chairs, with padded backs, little wheels for scooting around the room, if there was ever space for it, and a seat that can be raised and lowered. It is amazing the number of ways in which they can go wrong. Some have their backs caught at a permanent tilt, designed to erode even the sturdiest of lumbar spines. Some of the wheels are too loose; every now and then there is a crash as another hapless individual slides a little faster away from their terminal than they had intended, colliding with the person immediately behind them. My chair is missing one foot completely, so it sits at a permanent tilt. It no longer goes up, so I have had to tilt my monitor downwards at a crazy angle in order to be able to see a thing. And the monitor is still flickering away so madly, under the malign influence of the second mobile phone, that I cannot read one word of what I am typing. I try a few pointed glares in the perpetrator’s direction, but she remains oblivious.
Mobile phone girl number one comes back into the room, crashing the heavy fire door round into the back of my chair. Against all expectation the seat sinks a little lower.
Time to give up, I think…


Without adjectives/adverbs (and a coupla other words that had to come out so it made sense!): 393 words

You can see the hum in the air. Forty computer fans working overtime. All around me is the tap and clatter of students trying to type on keyboards that should have been thrown out 2 years ago. A mobile phone rings, and the door slams as the owner leaves the room. Her voice echoes in the corridor and creeps back through the walls to distract me.
I think my computer is broken. The monitor is yellowing with age, and the display blurs in and out of focus. Ripples run up the screen as another phone goes off next to me. The ‘r’ doesn’t work very well; I have to return every few words to insert it into a word.
The room is too small. The girl beside me is talking right into my ear, and her bag is on my foot. The work surfaces have legs that run right down in front of every chair – carefully positioned for maximum discomfort. They clang whenever a student attempts to pull their chair in further to peer at the mystery of their monitor. This isn’t made any easier by the fact that the chairs are almost all broken. They are designed with backs, wheels for scooting around the room, if there was ever space for it, and a seat that can be raised and lowered. It is amazing the number of ways in which they can go wrong. Some have their backs caught at a tilt, designed to erode the lumbar spine. Some of the wheels are too loose; every now and then there is a crash as another individual slides faster away from their terminal than they had intended, colliding with the person behind them. My chair is missing one foot, so it sits at an angle. It no longer goes up, so I have had to tilt my monitor downwards at an angle in order to be able to see a thing. And the monitor is still flickering away, under the influence of the second mobile phone; I cannot read one word of what I am typing. I try a few glares in the perpetrator’s direction, but she remains oblivious.
Mobile phone girl number one comes back into the room, crashing the fire door round into the back of my chair. Against all expectation the seat sinks lower.
Time to give up, I think…


Points of confusion –

Ones I left in:
Is Mobile Phone a noun, or is phone the noun and Mobile an adjective? The same question for ‘swivel chairs’.
Is ‘another’ an adjective? What about ‘too’? Like – ‘too’ loose?
When I say ‘maximum discomfort’, is ‘maximum’ an adjective?
The ‘second’ mobile phone – wasn’t sure if second acts as an adjective here?
‘The room is too small’ – does ‘too’ need removing? Or ‘too small’? Or nothing?!

Ones I took out:
Missing one foot ‘completely’ – I assume that completely is an adjective??
The person ‘immediately’ behind them – was I right to take immediately out??
‘The seat sinks a little lower’. – I took out ‘a little’ and ‘lower’– but I wasn’t sure if I should leave lower, or both. Aaaaah.

Basically I just ended up taking out ‘descriptive words that weren’t needed, when I got confused.

I think what this exercise has taught me is that I need to brush up on my grammar!

Am gonna leave the ‘add one adjective/adverb of your choice’ bit until someone more knowledgeable tells me what I need to take out/put back in!!

Jacquin
November 21st, 2003, 07:12 AM
I'm torn between pointing out that the word count was an intrinsic part of the exercise or just celebrating wildly because someone else has joined in. I think I'll go for the latter...

Points of confusion –

Ones I left in:
Is Mobile Phone a noun, or is phone the noun and Mobile an adjective? The same question for ‘swivel chairs’.

No, I'd say that because it is in such common usage it is a noun, in a similar way to vacuum cleaner or cd player.


Is ‘another’ an adjective? What about ‘too’? Like – ‘too’ loose?

I'd say another is fine, in the same way that a is fine. In the context you use it the wheels simply being loose would completely change the picture so again I think it is fine.


When I say ‘maximum discomfort’, is ‘maximum’ an adjective?

Yes I think it probably is.


The ‘second’ mobile phone – wasn’t sure if second acts as an adjective here?

I don't think so, as with "another" earlier


‘The room is too small’ – does ‘too’ need removing? Or ‘too small’? Or nothing?!

Hmmm, small is definintely an adjective and so too small is too but it is an adjective that is the point of the sentence so the whole sentence should go I think...


Ones I took out:
Missing one foot ‘completely’ – I assume that completely is an adjective??

I'd say so.

The person ‘immediately’ behind them – was I right to take immediately out??

Again I'd say so.

‘The seat sinks a little lower’. – I took out ‘a little’ and ‘lower’– but I wasn’t sure if I should leave lower, or both. Aaaaah.

I'd say it is right as you did it, even if you could argue lower wasn't an adjective it was a tautology and therefore should go regardless...

Nice piece though, you do need to pick your one luxury adjective...

J

Sammie
November 21st, 2003, 07:49 AM
Umm.....thank you.

What the blue hell is a tautology?

Jacquin
November 21st, 2003, 08:01 AM
Saying the same thing twice, - sink lower, huge giant, military intelligence, that kind of thing.

Now of course you get to criticise our efforts... *gulp*

J