Writing Exercise: Describe One Things Ten Ways

Last week’s challenge: Random Song Challenge

First up: an administrative detail. For those who took part in the Voicemails From The Future challenge — Reggie Lutz, you won a chronofact from the proceedings! Bounce me a message to terribleminds at gmail dot com. Yay!

(Er, edit: I don’t need everyone to write me an email. Just Reggie, thanks!)

Now: onto the challenge.

This week — not a flash fiction challenge so much so much as an experimental writing exercise. I want to do these from time to time just to keep things fresh around here.

So, here’s the drill —

I want you to take one thing and describe it ten different ways.

That thing can be… anything. An object. A person. A sensation. A place. An experience.

But I want you to focus on it and describe it multiple ways. Ten, as noted.

Each no more than a sentence of description.

(Feel free to choose a real world thing. Say, a lamp in your corner, or the flu you had last week.)

Differ your approaches in how you describe this thing.

Try pinballing from abstraction to factual — from metaphorical to forthright.

The goal here is just to flex our descriptive muscles a bit.

An example? After jogging the other day, I had a peculiar feeling in my face and I — as I am wont to do — went through the various ways I might describe this feeling. It was a hot pulsing. Like my heart was in my head. Like I was a goldfish inside an aquarium and some kid was tapping on the glass. Like both the basketball dribbling and the court on which it bounced. This is just a thing I do: I see a person or experience a sensation and I ask: how would I describe that?

Try it out. Pick a thing. Ten different descriptions.

Feel free to do this directly in the comments or at your blog (post a link).

Got till March 7th, noon EST to jump on in.



  • 1. TDK Headphones, $49.95.

    2. TDK ST550 Concert Series headphones, bring the symphony home.

    3. Round and silver, black and plastic, gold and soft; the sight and textures of them are organic.

    4. When I was a kid we would go to the beach and put seashells to our ears to hear the sound of the ocean, now I hear whale song.

    5. From the first drops of rain to a hurricane tempest, volume control is the power of the Universe reduced to a decimal scale.

    6. The way they closed around my head cut me off from the world and in that moment I was grateful for the soft foam of silence; it cut off the screams.

    7. With a soft creak the plastic frame pressed in and the foam cups sank against my ears in twin pillows of high-fidelity.

    8. When you put them on, they are nothing and then I flick this switch, and you see, they are portals.

    9. Heart beats in 4:4 time, marking an electronic pulse that bursts from the diaphragm in a sympathetic vibration, echoed and digitised again by the tympanic membrane.

    10. “TDK’s are shit mate, you’ll no get twenty for em, besides they’ve got fuckin’ blood on ’em, I’ll give yer ten.”

  • 1) The roll paper read +FILTERS on the tip; I loved filters.
    2) The rectangular cardboard-like holder promised 32 roll paper leaves and 32 filters.
    3) 100% natural. 100% vegetarian. Organic. GM free. ROLL PAPER.
    4) OCB roll papers came in all shapes in sizes; this one cape in the shape of 32 leaves and as many filters.
    5) Gomme Arabique Naturelle is French for Damn Good Rollpaper.
    6) I came prepared: my OCB Slim Premium roll paper came with filters.
    7) A silver O, C and B, silver leaves across the rectangular perimeter, a hairband to keep the roll paper box closed, this was QUALITY.
    8) Pure flax paper, natural gum: OCB rolling paper.
    9) No sentence can describe finding a box of OCB rolling papers (come with filters!) when roll paper is a must.
    10) Five papers, five filters, five joints, OCB roll paper box is now empty and I have to buy a new one.

  • Ten ways to describe the dawn…

    1. There was a lightening of the air around us, and though neither of us wished to open our eyes just yet–to admit that the night was done and our time at an end–the growing presence of the sun and stirring of fauna could not be ignored: it was tomorrow.

    2. A new day was dawning, a hot day, a day of promise.

    3. Like any good puppeteer the laws of nature hid their machinations, pulling the sun up over the horizon in a steady, dramatic glide.

    4. There was a moment–no more than the span of heartbeats–where Heather felt the rising sun would stop where it was, rivers of light reaching across the lake water toward but never reaching her: a moment where time didn’t have to move on and neither did she.

    5. Billy’s cloud-based alarm app always woke him five minutes before the sun rose so that he could be there to greet it – but this morning’s dawn broke in darkness.

    6. When dawn came it found that the proletariat had beat it to the streets, and even though it did its best to give them cheer through light and warmth, their demeanor remained as frozen as their future.

    7. The new day’s sunlight fought its way through the thick mountain mist, a new-born butterfly inevitably winning its fight with the chrysalis.

    8. The heat of the rising sun spread over my body like a knife full of peanut butter across an expanse of bread.

    9. Birds were singing in that way that I hate, the way that indicates that the sun was rising, a sun I hadn’t seen nor felt in twenty years.

    10. Night was routed, its troops withdrawing, darkness pulling back before the light in a steady, inexorable retreat that heralded the coming dawn.

  • My computer:

    1.) Source of inspiration, information, and entertainment.

    2.) Drainer of hours worth of productivity.

    3.) Mall (amazon, ebay, etc), which subsequently makes it a money pit.

    4.) Canvas for my stories. Yes, I know it seems cheesy, but stories don’t feel the same unless I’m writing them on this keyboard that I’ve grown so accustomed to using).

    5.) The ball and chain that keeps me tethered to work via email notifications.

    6.) Communication conduit. My inane thoughts can reach the masses through Twitter and Facebook.

    7.) Companion. It’s everywhere I go and has sat besides me i the computer bag at many a public toilet. We’re close.

    8.) Source of frustration: Windows 8 has occasionally caused my blood pressure to spike into some pretty unhealthy territory.

    9.) Source of escape. When I’ve had a bad day, I can plug in my headphones and type away, shutting out everyone else while I work or create.

    10.) The most disorganized, random photo album in history.

  • 1.) The warm body in my bed
    2.) the face that brings a smile to mine
    3.) a saint who hates coffee yet makes delicious coffee for me each morning
    4.) my sanity when the world is lacking of it
    5.) the ear to listen to my rants
    6.) the eyes to watch as I twirl and dance, trip and fall
    7.) the mouth that kisses my forehead when I cry
    8.) the hands that brush across my skin
    9.) Jace, 6″3, 190 lbs, 22 years of age.
    10.) The person I love.

    IS THAT SAPPY ENOUGH FOR YOU? (even though you never asked for sappy)

  • Not sure if this is the kind of description you meant, but I described my daughter.

    My daughter is a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes.
    She is a human jukebox who composes little songs as the day progresses and amuses herself by singing them under her breath.
    She is a contrarian, who may refuse suggestions of French toast, oatmeal or yogurt, but is receptive to offers of poop in a cup and dog sandwiches.
    Sometimes she is a dog, and by extension I am a Daddy dog.
    She is the daughter of readers, falling asleep clutching Harold and the Purple Crayon instead of Elmo, with five Beatrix Potter books hidden under the covers.
    She is a frustrating little monkey who has many times been saved by the lack of convenient ice floes in Southern British Columbia.
    She is the first person I’ve met whose projectile vomiting outshone that of an army buddy in a peeler bar in 1986. Neither of them were fully conscious, both got puke on my shirt.
    She is freakishly smart and vocal, with a huge vocabulary, yet some people don’t realize that she talks at all.
    She is gentle and empathetic, and gets distressed when someone else appears sad, whether that is another child at the library, or a spacesuit-clad rhinoceros in a book.
    She is a whirlwind of energy, creativity and sometimes anger, trying to maintain control in a world not run by two-year-olds.

  • I am sitting at my kitchen table, looking across the room.
    1. On the floor is this yellow thing.
    2. For here the yellow thing seems to be about 6 inches across.
    3. It is round.
    4. It is hollowed out inside.
    5. There appears to be something brown inside. The brown stuff is uneven, bumpy. But for here I cannot tell what it is.
    6. The back inside surface of the yellow thing has some shiny spots-reflections of light (even though it is a cloudy, overcast day)
    7. I cannot tell if the yellow thing has a bottom or not, but it does appear to be sitting flat on the floor.
    8. While I have referred to this as a yellow thing, different areas of this thing’s surface appear to have slightly different shades of color. I suspect this is due to the way lit is hitting object.
    9. There is a small rim around the upper edge of the yellow thing.
    10. I said that this thing is round. But actually, from my viewing angle, the top almost looks more oval. I suspect, however, that if I were to stand directly over it and look down, it would be perfectly circular.

    I am looking at my dog’s food bowl. I suspect all that my dog ever really sees is the brown stuff – the food – inside.

  • March 1, 2014 at 6:35 PM // Reply

    Zooey the Cat

    1. She is as evil as the Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Her torment knows no bounds.
    2. Her fur cascades across your hand like that of a silken waterfall made of fluff concentrate.
    3. Her confident stride shows ownership over everything from her front paws to the limitless horizon.
    4. The glare she glares is the glare of a glaring bitch-face. She knows this.
    5. She sleeps like a ruthless overlord amidst the agonizing screams of it’s victims; soundly.
    6. Her teethe, while small and not at all intimidating, are the instruments of our eternal anguish.
    7. Preferably, her resting place is upon the air-holes of any unfortunate enough to fall asleep around her. She’s a natural baby-killer.
    8. When she cuddles, it’s very one-sided. Your comfort means nothing while hers is all.
    9. Her yawn is as ungraceful as she is nimble.
    10. Her give-em-hell attitude is her best, and possibly only, side.

  • THING – Finishing a load of less exciting pieces of writing (training and assessment course)

    1. It’s a crampy shoulder, widgy finger, butt hard surfacer, hanging legs stretcher, age adding, task to be done.
    2. A saviour from washing up, vacuuming, toilet cleaning and making beds, stop to empty bins and back to avoiding the everyday, carving a path to getting it done.
    3. Focused, productive, doing it, loving it, in my head and in my heart, it’s singing and it’s nearly there, pride is bubbling in the light ahead.
    4. It’s cutting my edge, soaking my imagination and spurning energy in every direction, my creative juice instigator.
    5. Heart racing, thoughts are pacing it is time for sleep and my fingers are still at the keyboard, sleep depriver.
    6. Scanning, typing, creating, regurgitating, paper here, paper there, making sense of a pile of creativity and mundanity in one swoop.
    7. It is a stepping stone, with no pre-defined direction except the forwards that I need.
    8. Design, deliver, assess, RPL, feedback, checklist, upload, TAE, training.gov.au, words in my head and creating my new world.
    9. Determination and creativity are my tools to attack the pieces of work that will buy my future.
    10. Door opener, future creator, short term pain-long term gainer, love the promise of promise.

    thanks for the distraction 🙂

  • Snow:

    1. Snow smeared like cream cheese over salted sidewalks
    2. Canadian quicksand
    3. Snow fell on her cheek, light as a good night kiss
    4. Sallow sun in a vitamin-deficient sky
    5. The winter of wet mittens
    6. Pot-bellied snowmen leered at her from both sides of the driveway
    7. Pine needle pride
    8. winter gruel
    9. Bunny tracks cut through his driveway, looping over to a hole in the Woodbury’s fence, and he smiled, thinking of little rabbits going barefoot in the snow.
    10. the swish of icy wind, and the pop of hard packed snow, like sledding face-first into seltzer.

  • First attempt at an exercise here. Spring Training has put me in mind of baseball:

    1. A sport descended from the English game of rounders.
    2. The same game played amongst ten “ghost runners” on a sandlot or before 50,000 screaming fans bursting the seams of triple-decked stadiums.
    3. Two teams of nine, sometimes ten, with the team on defense all arrayed out on the field while the team on offense approaches home plate one at a time to bat and hopefully run the bases.
    4. Freshly dragged reddish-brown dirt, the infield, forming a barrier between two expanses of closely-cropped grass.
    5. An eight-inch circumference rubber core, wound tightly with yarn, and covered with white leather and red stitching.
    6. The pitcher peers in from his perch upon his mound, sees the catcher with a single index finger extended downward, and adjusts his grip on the ball to stretch across all four seams.
    7. Crack, the sound created when a ball traveling 95 miles per hour encounters a cylindrical bat of wood swinging 120 miles per hour in the opposite direction.
    8. A dribbler past the outstretched glove of a diving shortstop, scoring two runs, an inch that marks the difference between World Champion and the long, bitter wait for next April.
    9. A balmy summer evening, a hot dog overflowing with mustard and relish, an eight-dollar light beer, and the Seventh Inning Stretch.
    10. We all know a single is a kiss and a home run is sex, but will polite society ever be able to agree on the proper classification of a first-date handjob?

  • March 2, 2014 at 8:43 PM // Reply

    Here are my ten descriptions of my crappy internet connection.
    1. A stubborn dog that refuses to obey my commands.
    2. A teasing woman, who lures me in with promises of pleasure and entertainment, but turns the other cheek in less than a second.
    3. The renegade cop who plays by his own rule and no one else’s.
    4. A demonic curse set upon me by some cruel spirit.
    5. An annoyance
    6. A wild stallion
    7. Mere excuses for unfinished work.
    8. The obstacle standing between me and the numerous books I yearn for.
    9. A gateway to paradise.
    10. A broken bridge in desperate need for repair.

    Please let me know if this is total crap. I’d appreciate it very much,

  • MC’s feelings about her coworkers….
    They are like…
    1. dog hair on my pants.
    2. chattering seagulls diving for food bothering me.
    3. remants of spinach caught in my teeth.
    4.that annoying itch on the bottom of your foot while your driving.
    5. a hot muggy day sapping every last ounce of strength I may have.
    6. being in a mall the day before Christmas.
    7. my neighbor and his leaf blower outside my window while I’m trying to work.
    8. someone leaching the life blood from my veins.
    9. a pack of lions just waiting for the kill.
    10. characters in a novel full of blatant lies.

  • I just finished reading Ozzy Osbourne’s memoir , in which he said that one of his roommates at Betty Ford snored “like a moose with a tracheotomy.” The belly laugh I got out of that inspired me to write my descriptive list about snoring.

    Of all the descriptors I wrote, my personal favorite was “Darth Vader with a sinus infection” (though I feel like I’ve heard that one before now. It may belong to someone else and is just lodged in my subconcious.)


  • Sorry, I’m upgrading my site right now, so it’s offline. Here’s my list.

    1. like a hibernating bear
    2. A jackhammer in the middle of the road, noisily pounding away into the concrete.
    3. the sounds of an unidentifiable wounded animal
    4. Darth Vader with a sinus infection
    5. the sound of a blender on the ‘frappe’ setting throughout the night
    6. Powerful enough to dislodge window dressings (a sure sign I grew up watching endless amounts of cartoons.)
    7. a lion announcing his presence
    8.an auditory form of Chinese water torture for the non-snorer sleeping next to them.
    9. a prophet of doom heralding another sleepless night for their non-snoring sleepmate
    10. a chainsaw buzzing through the trunk of a giant Sequoia

  • Baking is one of my favorite hobbies. There are ten different ways I view depending on my mood and what I have to get done.

    1. Time honored tradition.

    2. Is a curious blend between art and science.

    3. One of many Realtor tricks to sell a home.

    4. Way to bribe spouses to perform all sorts of hideous tasks.

    5. The warm and fuzzy memories of home and family.

    6. What you do for someone when you love them.

    7. A hobby that sits perfectly between simple and complex.

    8. An exercise in pure indulgence.

    9. An excuse to get messy, and have no one care.

    10. A plausible reason to eat raw batter for ‘testing’ purposes.

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