Sometimes we get so stuck thinking within our own heads that it's tough to see the world with fresh, new eyes.
I can remember teachers in college art classes encouraging us to view the world in shadows for a day, or contrasts, or shapes. That attention to light and dark and the natural curves and lines in the world helped us not only improve our drawing skills, but it helped us see something interesting in an otherwise mundane space. An empty staircase became a maze of sharp angles scattered with light patterns from the small window above. The rainclouds of Seattle became a visual treat when viewed for their undulating patterns in the sky.
Writing is not a purely visual medium like drawing or painting or sculpture, but it is visual none-the-less. The writer works in relationship with his or her audience to create a scenery, an environment that must come alive in the reader's mind and excite them. A writer is an interactive artist of sorts, giving the reader enough details to make the story come alive, but leaving out enough specifics to allow that reader some creative leeway in visualizing the character and the environment in the story.
To practice writing about an environment, I'd like to know more about a room in your house. However, to encourage you to see your room with fresh, new eyes, I want you to see it as a dog would and describe it through that dog's eyes.
writing exercise: Pick one room in your house (i.e. living room, kitchen, bedroom, dining room). Take a moment to get down on your hands and knees, if you are able. Crawl around for a moment, imagining yourself as a dog. What would it smell, see, hear? Now come back to the computer and write about it.
(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)
(dog's view of a walk-in closet)
Chances are good I've hit the doggie jackpot today. The one door in the house that is always closed with a stern warning "Keep Out" is swinging open just enough.
I stick in a paw and pull. Creeeeak. Shh! I pause and listen. Silence. Good, no one heard. One more time, a little faster. Creeeeak. Glancing around to make sure no one is there, I see it's all clear and saunter through the doorway as quietly as I can.
I sit down for a moment to take it all in. My owners' clothes are all hanging by themselves up in the air. They're not on a body but they can stay in the air. Strange.
I stand up and notice a little extra weight on my tail. I chase my tail down. Big circle, gotta see what's there. Why can I never catch that darn thing? Alright, try again, sit and scoot until it comes off. There we go. Aha, a sock! It smells like it's been on a human foot. Stinks. Not quite like the neighbor dog's hair after a rainstorm, but pretty sweaty. I love it! Humans spend too much time masking their natural odor - it would be so much easier to sniff them and remember the scent if they'd stick to au naturel like us dogs.
I follow my nose to an entire basket full of sweaty clothes, put one paw on the basket and knock it down. I roll around in the socks and clothes. Must. Be. In. Heaven. There is no way any other dogs in the neighborhood will think my humans are available for adoption after they pick my scent up on this wardrobe!
Mid-roll, I look up just above where the laundry basket was sitting. I stop in my tracks. Shoes. Shelves piled high with nothing but shoes. High heels. Tennis shoes. Flip flops. Pink, red, blue, purple, black, brown. This has to be the only thing better than a basket full of socks and clothes.
I finish my roll, jump up and grab two shoes in my jaw. I pretend they're the mailman's legs and growl, snarl, shake my head, bat at the shoes, back and forth, back and forth. Once they're nice and slimy, I reach for another shoe and repeat the process. Again. And again. And again. No wonder my humans spend so much time in this room! It's paradise!
When I reach my 8th pair of shoes, I hear someone open the door to the bedroom. I look around to survey my playground for the day. It looks glorious, with wet shoes all over the place and my fur covering the socks and dirty clothes.
Somehow, I have a feeling that my owners won't be as impressed; they never seem to enjoy it when I dump the trash to help them out with leftovers in the kitchen, or when I dig up lost treasure in the garden and present them with my findings. They just can't appreciate my pride. But, I'm having fun and it's too late to hide.
The woman opens the door, screams out, "SHOO!"
I nod my head, yes, this is what you generally call this thing, a shoe. I'm not in trouble! She's trying to teach me to speak, but she's really loud. Must be going a little deaf.
But, she doesn't look happy and yells it out again. "SHOO! NOW!" Must be time to scoot.
I slink out of the room with my tail between my legs and crawl under the bed, while she mutters and destroys the glorious mess I've made. This is definitely a door to watch out for; the next time it's open a crack I'll be back to check out the rest of those shoes.
(writercizer note: please note i did not actually roll around in my dirty laundry ... nor do i actually have a dog ...)