Writer's Challenge #6: Descriptions

This one comes from an essay by Richard Feynman. You know the shape of a car's crankshaft, right? If not, you can google it.

 

Now... Try to describe that shape or that shaft without using the word "crankshaft."

 

Extra points if it doesn't sound like a technical manual.

Comments

  • Like the shape of infinity. In the year 3000.

  • A simple tapering rod meant to spin despite it's appearance of incongruity. The ends narrow almost to a point, focusing. But the center, with it's waves of flowing metal, betray the true purpose: the transfer of energy. Each rotation pushes and pulls, working the arms, up down, up down. Spinning faster and faster, the power builds and the transport lurches forward, getting us from here to there. 

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    Paul_Lulu wrote:

    A simple tapering rod meant to spin despite it's appearance of incongruity. The ends narrow almost to a point, focusing. But the center, with it's waves of flowing metal, betray the true purpose: the transfer of energy. Each rotation pushes and pulls, working the arms, up down, up down. Spinning faster and faster, the power builds and the transport lurches forward, getting us from here to there. 


    Excellent.

     

    Not very descriptive, but from a functional perspective in a narrative, that would work well.I hadn't thought of describing it through its function.

     

    I might have gone with something like:

     

    ....

     

    The metal pole stood upon a large gear, and it came up just above his waist. But for the life of him, he could not imagine its purpose. It vaguely resembled a flagpole -- for small flags, perhaps -- that had been assembled by Andy Warhol while he was hung over after a night out with Salvidor Dali.

     

    Sections of the pole were interrupted by slabs of metal that might have been a Blacksmith's sculpture of a porterhouse steak, rendered in iron. Between these slabs were what might have been cans of peas, but without labels, and burnished to a bright shine. The cans -- if that's what they were -- had been set off-center, and the thicker parts of the steaks -- if they were meant to represent steaks -- seemed to counter them in a precarious trick of balance.

     

    It seemed impossible that it should stand erect, and yet it did. He began to wonder if it would still stand, if the pieces were not joined into a unity of steel -- of course not, it couldn't. And yet... he wondered...


  • Excellent.

     

    Not very descriptive, but from a functional perspective in a narrative, that would work well.I hadn't thought of describing it through its function.

     

    I might have gone with something like:

     

    ....

     

    The metal pole stood upon a large gear, and it came up just above his waist. But for the life of him, he could not imagine its purpose. It vaguely resembled a flagpole -- for small flags, perhaps -- that had been assembled by Andy Warhol while he was hung over after a night out with Salvidor Dali.

     

    Sections of the pole were interrupted by slabs of metal that might have been a Blacksmith's sculpture of a porterhouse steak, rendered in iron. Between these slabs were what might have been cans of peas, but without labels, and burnished to a bright shine. The cans -- if that's what they were -- had been set off-center, and the thicker parts of the steaks -- if they were meant to represent steaks -- seemed to counter them in a precarious trick of balance.

     

    It seemed impossible that it should stand erect, and yet it did. He began to wonder if it would still stand, if the pieces were not joined into a unity of steel -- of course not, it couldn't. And yet... he wondered...


     

    This is great! I think you capture with accuracy what the thing is and it's purpose, without coming close to calling it a crankshaft or sounding like a manual. From the standpoint of writing a story, I think your rendition works better than mine, as it not only puts us in the perspective of a character, but it uses solid metaphor/simile to give the "thing" a life.

     

    I hadn't realized how often I write with an eye toward a things function, as opposed to actually describing the thing. I do tend to avoid descriptive or flowery language in favor of action, but there's something to be said about how really describing something as you've done can reveal a character. 

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    Em_Press wrote:

    Like the shape of infinity. In the year 3000.


    As an interpretation, not bad...

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    I cheated: I've been thinking about this one for a couple of years, ever since I read Feynman's essay on how the mind works.

  • Police Officer [perfunctorily]: Greenhills police station.
    Woman [hysterical]: Police! Quick!
    PO: What’s your name and address, Ma’am?
    W: Blondie Moronie, 23 Cuckoo Street.
    PO: Thank you. What’s your problem, Ma’am?
    W: My car has a breakdown.
    PO: We are not a garage, Ma’am.
    W: I have found a very strange thing in the driveway.
    PO: What does it look like.
    W: It’s alien! It’s a crazy thing. Looks like a cylinder with gouged out parts.
    PO: I see. Why did you say it’s alien?
    W: You know cars are frozen when there is a UFO above.
    PO: Some people say so.
    W: When I discovered that odd thing on the driveway, I put one plus one, and got two! There must have been a UFO above my house!
    PO: You didn’t see it?
    W: No, my car stopped. So I was busy trying to restart it. I understood I had been attacked by a UFO when I spotted the weird thing on my driveway.
    PO: Have you got an e-phone with a cam?
    W: Certainly, officer.
    PO: Could you take a picture of this object, and send it to us right now?
    W: Yes! Wait. I’ll do it.
    PO: Well – Ma’m. You’ve sent me the picture of a crankshaft. Please, film that thing on your driveway.
    W: It’s the picture of the alien thing I sent you.
    PO: It’s just a crankshaft.
    W: This alien thing is already known as a crankshaft? Amazing!
    PO: It’s not alien. You’ve lost the crankshaft of your car, Ma’am!
    W: Do you mean we have already acquired alien technology?
    PO: It’s not alien, Ma’am. How you’ve lost your crankshaft beats me. How long have you been driving before you lost it on your driveway?
    W: I was just back from the garage, round the corner. The mechanic made some frantic gestures, but I was in a hurry, so I didn’t stop.

  • The mechanic held a piece of grease covered metal for my perusal. "Here's your problem." He said as if I knew what he was talking about.

     

    The part ran the length of one of his arms. Flat shapes that reminded me of modern art geometry were attached by short cylanders by inset bolts.  The placement of the flat pieces seemed to come out of the central radius at random angles probably based on reason only the most sage of Detroit engineers understood. Could I tell what it was? No.  All I knew was that I was going to have to max my Visa to pay for this repair.

     

    "Are you SURE it is worth replacing this part on my 1983 Pacer?" I had to ask.

     

     

     

    "New here - second post

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym ✭✭✭

    WWDowd wrote:

    The mechanic held a piece of grease covered metal for my perusal. "Here's your problem." He said as if I knew what he was talking about.

     

    The part ran the length of one of his arms. Flat shapes that reminded me of modern art geometry were attached by short cylanders by inset bolts.  The placement of the flat pieces seemed to come out of the central radius at random angles probably based on reason only the most sage of Detroit engineers understood. Could I tell what it was? No.  All I knew was that I was going to have to max my Visa to pay for this repair.

     

    "Are you SURE it is worth replacing this part on my 1983 Pacer?" I had to ask.

     

     

     

    "New here - second post


    Bravo! Bravo!

     

    You seem to have brought together all the various ideas into a single unified concept. Excellent.

     

    And Welcome to the forums.

     

    (A 1983 Pacer? Good Night!)

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