The answer is: harder than I thought. Think about it. How do you describe wet? I looked it up in the dictionary, but all the definitions were just variations of the same word. "Moist," "damp," "sodden." They're great, but if, say, an alien landed on Earth and asked about water, none of those words would be helpful, would they? So, I went and held my hand under running water for a couple of minutes. I got some impressions, and I was able to use them to write my story, which was well received by the group. But there is a lesson here, I think.
The first draft of any story should be about getting the words down. Top of mind, first impressions, stream of conscious. These are the watchwords for that first attempt. But once you've gotten it written, and you want to perfect it, you need to dig deep. What are you trying to say? What do you want the reader to come away with? What do you want to evoke in the reader's mind as he or she reads? Wonder? Horror? Outrage? What's the best way to accomplish that? How do you get the writer to see the scene as you see it?
Writing, like life, is not a destination, but a journey. You should always be learning, growing, getting better. This is just another way to think about it. The story I wrote originally by longhand, was 5-6 pages long. The story I submitted to the group, like the longhand version, was done in a single sitting. It's an exercise, in other words, not meant to be a finished product, but a way of expanding my mind, my ability, my craft. I've included it in its entirety here. Check it out. Think about what you might have written about. Maybe go ahead and do so. Think about how you would describe the sensation of "wet" to someone who has never touched something liquid. Or describe color to someone who was born blind. The touch of silk, or leather. The smell of tar, or sweetgrass, or burning wood. Take 15-30 minutes and write a story, 1-3 pages, and see if you can get close.
You might be surprised at how difficult it is.
And you might just find a new way to add depth to your writing.
He wanted to be clean.
Danny looked down at his feet where the water lapped gently at his toes, tiny cliffs that might have risen a millennia ago from the sand, here stained a dark gray by the water. The sky, too, was an ashy gray, the color of summer storms, it seemed to him. His mother gave him a gentle push, and he moved with her, wading deeper into the lake until the water was up to his chest.
Cold at first, the water soon grew pleasantly warm, its caress soft, soothing, like the velvety down of the chicks his mother had used to let him touch back when they had chickens on their farm. Back when they, or anyone else had anything. He felt only the slightest pressure as it slid over and around his skin, yet he could feel it buoying him, wanting to move him along on some hidden current on a path to he knew not where.
There was a distant rumble, almost a groan of anticipation, and Danny looked up at his mother’s face.
She was gray, gray as the sand, gray as the sky. When he had remarked on how ill she looked days before, she had only stared back at him with eyes that shone from the bottoms of deep wells and told him that God’s will would be done, and said no more. Now, as they stood together near the center of the lake, she began to speak. She railed against the disease which had killed whole countries, and left some few to carry on. She spoke of Noah, who had followed the word of God and built an Ark so that his chosen could rebuild the Earth in His image. She pleaded with the Lord to shield them from His further wrath. She begged to know what sacrifice He would accept to cleanse the taint of sin from them.
During all this, Danny had kept his head bowed in prayer. But now, he once again looked up at her, saw her looking down at him, her eyes penetrating, forceful, determined. He nodded. He was ready.
She placed one hand on the small of his back, the other went across his chest to the opposite shoulder, and she dipped him beneath the lake surface. As the water accepted him, he heard it gurgling, speaking its own prayer against the sin which was the disease killing him, which had not appeared until his father had hung himself from the elm tree in the back yard. Mother pulled him up, praying now, and dipped him under again. The water was both cool and warm, a breath of wind upon every inch of him. He relished the feel of it, felt forgiveness in it, felt invitation, too.
Again, he was pulled erect, and he stood shivering, as the water poured from him. His mother was speaking directly to him, now. He could not understand her words, but he nodded anyway. He knew what to do.
When she dunked him under this time, she held him there. He opened his eyes, saw through the gray all the way up to heaven, where he knew God would forgive him the sins of his father, if only he could be cleansed. Saw his mother’s face shimmering above him, her face both tortured and kind, and did the only thing he could.
He opened his mouth, and breathed deeply.