Raise your hand if you’ve played the game Taboo. If you haven’t, the rules are fairly simple. You must describe something for other players to guess, but you are forbidden to use certain words in your description. Oh, and there’s a time limit, but that is outside the scope of this weekend’s writing challenge.
I hear you. What does this game have to do with writing?
I ran across “Imagery and the Third Eye,” an essay by Stephen King that I shared on Facebook this week. In it, King discusses the difference between an idea and an image, and how writers can improve their writing by knowing the difference. If you’ve not read the essay before, I recommend you take a quick peek at it.
Annnd… this is where Taboo comes into play. Using King’s example from the essay: “It was a spooky old house” is not an image. It’s an idea hobbling around using “spooky” and “old” as crutches, and it doesn’t create a visual response in the reader. In simplest terms, it tells the reader about the house without showing anything. But what if, in our writerly game of Taboo, the words “spooky” and “old” were forbidden? We’d be forced to examine the dilapidated porch, the shutters hanging askew, and the cobwebbed fractures in the window glass–all of which call upon imagery to convey the idea of spooky.
This weekend, your writing assignment is to practice creating images instead of ideas. Seek out places in your own work (or in your favorite books) where an idea is used in place of an image. What crutch word does the idea use instead of providing an image? That word is now taboo. Write a new description that relies on imagery without using the taboo word.
That’s it for this weekend. Until next time, keep writing!