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, 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
Select a descriptive passag and remove all of its descriptive detail. Photocopy and make a transparency of the original and the revised passages. One instructor used a passage from
detective novel that describes an investigator arriving at a crime scene --
and without supporting detail, it's bland rather than grisly. I used a passage from Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh, that reveals a great deal about a character unless the description is removed. A pulp romance would work well too.
Have students decide where they think detail should be added, and have them rewrite the passage. When they're finished, ask volunteers to read, or collect and
randomly read a few passages. Discuss to see where people
generally agreed detail was needed, and what was lost to the
meaning and effectiveness of the passage without the detail. Then pass out copies of the
original passage to show them what it really looked like. Discuss the differences, and impress
upon them that this is exactly why detail will be so important in their essays.