On painting a picture with simple words
Fat doughnuts, and pancakes loaded with sugar
Hello everyone — first off, this is officially your last chance to share your strangest prediction for the new year:
Okay, I know that the promise of this newsletter was to focus on the building of a creative habit, as opposed to craft, but I’ve found that I can’t help myself. So, here’s a bit on imagery.
I’m going to share two examples of imagery-packed writing from Halldór Laxness’ masterpiece, Independent People (a 1934 epic about an Icelandic sheep farmer).
Here he is describing breakfast with the lads:
“Such coffee made you sweat like a horse. Drink up, lads, drink. And there were also lovely cakes with the coffee, thick slices of Christmas cake with big raisins, fat doughnuts, and pancakes loaded with sugar. Eat up, lads, eat up. […'] Cupful after cupful they swilled, without making a sound other than guzzling and crunching and the snuffling of nostrils charged with tobacco.”
I am picturing Laxness staring at a plate of fat donuts and pancakes loaded with sugar, asking himself, “what is a fancy way to describe fat donuts and pancakes loaded with sugar?” before concluding that those very words paint the picture better than any others possibly could. Who amongst us can’t see, hear, smell, even taste this scene?
Here he is describing a cold house:
“Bjartur was now spending his second winter in the house he had built. It was the worst house in the world and unbelievably cold. […]The walls of the room sweated with damp and were covered with a veneer of ice during frosty weather. The windows never thawed, the wind blew straight through the house, upstairs there was snow lying on the floors and swirling about in the air.”
With the possible exception of ‘veneer', there’s not a single word in here that an eighth-grader wouldn’t know. And yet… I can feel the cold. (It was the worst house in the world and unbelievably cold is one of my favorite sentences ever, I think).
My writing students frequently say things to the effect of:
“I’m looking for a word for [simple word].”
“I’m looking for a way to describe [simple noun with simple adjective].”
Typically, I’ll let them search for and settle on fancy words, before crossing them out and writing the simple, original ones in their place. Nine times out of ten, it reads better.
Of course there are times to flex your sesquipedalian vocabulary, but I often find that when it comes to imagery, ‘calling it like you see it’ is more impactful.
If this was helpful, please hit the ‘heart’ button at the bottom of this prompt — that way I’ll know to create more like it!
Next prompt drops Wednesday morning.
I am an orange. ’‘nicely’’ rounded. cause If I am being honest with myself i would better accept my edges.
I am an orange. and I am holding myself, very still. I love how it feels to be held by myself. and i feel my fingertip slowly touching my body and drawing curves on it while finding new paths on my own roughness.
I am an orange. I give my-shelf a little check. I dig my nail into my skin and take a little peel. I needed some good amount of pressure tho. As soon as I dig my nail I see that juice popping out of me and I am glowing under the sun light filtering through the window behind me, gently warms my neck. And this scent oh mon dieu! Do I really smell that good when I am peeled away? Hah! Not really.
Hmmm. another color of me showing up itself under there.lighter. softer than the outer one. This is all I can say about it.
I keep doing it as i find playful peeling myself . How would you peel yourself btw? I liked the hands. But some prefer knives. Some love doing it piece by piece like me.enjoying the nail work. But some make it all at once. Tastes different but some even may not peel. No judge!
OK.My protecting-shelf is gone completely. I am being naked now. Get ready for some juiciness.
I notice different pieces of me more or less being identical to each other.
Anyways so much about ‘’me’’ going on. I should have not peeled myself away. So much to discover now. But being an orange is fun. What fruit are you and how it feels to be? What are our similarities?
I like tasting myself with a cup of espresso in the morning freshness. How would you taste yourself? Would you?
Ps: I was an avocado once.