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Have Some Fun with Your Surroundings

By On Jul 11 2012, 12:00 am

As summer progresses, the heat wave sweeping many parts of the world reminds us that summer isn’t always the gentle visitor that some poets would have us believe.  Kids home for the summer present unique challenges to households that are bereft of school-year routine.  As we zoom from event to event and struggle to stay cool, (or, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, deal with winter), let’s take a moment to pause and play with the way we see our surroundings.

Get a piece of paper and either crayons, pens, or pencils.  The more festive you make it, the more fun you’ll have – and you can involve children, if you’re a parent.  Draw a rectangle.  Now look around the room you’re sitting in, or the backyard or park, wherever you happen to be.  Draw an X where you’re sitting, and draw what you’re sitting on (blanket, couch, chair, etc.).  Proceed to the left and around the rectangle, drawing in little squares, circles, and rectangles to represent the furniture or trees or barbecue pit around you.  Go around the rectangle in a counter-clockwise direction.  Once you finish, compare your drawing to the space and add anything you missed…

Voila!  You now have a map of your room, a physical, tangible representation of physical reality.  You can do this with your neighborhood, the route to school, your entire house and property, etc.  If you have children at home, have them draw the neighborhood and include things like fire plugs and handicapped parking spaces.

This can be a fun learning exercise, as we get better at understanding spacial relationships.  If you are a writer, they’re even more valuable, because they help you understand physical space and how to portray it.  Rather than having a living room with a brown rug, you have an overstuffed but itchy couch and a table with a tape mar from when the three-year-old put the tape on it while wrapping holiday gifts.  You can even do this with imaginary places, such as a fantasy world.  Imagine a throne room.  Imagine sitting in the throne – what would you see from there?  Other furniture, or just a place for penitents to kneel and entreat the throne?  What about a café?  A restaurant?  An airplane?  A ship?

You can draw almost anything, even if you can draw no more than stick figures.  Start with rectangles, circles, and triangles.  Don’t worry whether it’s to scale.  Just try to fit things into the outline of the space and be willing to draw badly.  Being DaVinci isn’t the point; having a representative schematic is what’s useful here.

And remember – have fun with it.  Make it a team exercise, parents against kids or have a barbecue and have everyone draw their own livings rooms.  You can also have folks draw imaginary spaces such as a spaceship bridge, submarine village, or other unusual place.



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2 Responses to “Have Some Fun with Your Surroundings”

  1. Thanks for sharing this creative exercise!

  2. Rachel Wilder says:

    I really think having maps or blueprints for places in your stories help the writing process. Not only does it make it more real, but prevents slip ups that readers might catch. I’ll even find photos for the character’s house and rooms as well so I can viusalize them during a scene.
    I think they’re fun !

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