This exercise involves taking a
passage from a book, removing all descriptive
detail, and having the students fill it in for
themselves. It not only gives them practice
writing description themselves, but it also
shows how boring and lifeless (and less
meaningful and effective) writing is without
supporting and descriptive detail.
Setup for World without Adjectives
Photocopy (and make a transparency of) copies of a passage you
have selected and omitted all descriptive detail. Tif used a passage from
detective novel that describes an investigator arriving at a crime scene --
and without supporting description, it's pretty bland rather than grisly.
Other passages work well (I used Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh,
a passage that reveals a great deal about a character unless the description is
removed) and a pulp romance would work really well. Have them decide where
they think detail should be added and what they would add and
let them rewrite the passage.
When they are finished, ask volunteers to read, or collect and
randomly read a few passages. Discuss to see where people
generally agreed detail need to be added and what was lost to the
meaning and effect of the passage without it. The pass out copies of the
original passage (and maybe make a transparency) to show them what it
really looked like. Discuss the difference between the two, and impress
upon them that this is exactly why detail will be so important in their essays.