Authorology Lab: Alien Line-up

by Lana Krumwiede

Welcome to the Authorology Lab! In these posts, we’ll be sharing our favorite writing exercises for young writers of all ages. These little gems are designed to stir the creative juices and awaken the storyteller inside you.

For this activity, you’ll need a partner. Each of you will draw a picture of an alien, a monster, or an imaginary creature of some kind. Use your imagination to make the picture detailed. But don’t let your partner see what you’re drawing.

imgres-5On a separate paper, write a paragraph that describes your creature. Take your time and try to describe it as best you can. Next, let your partner read your description of the creature, but don’t let him see your drawing yet! After reading the description, your partner will draw what they think your creature looks like. You will do the same for their creature.

Compare your partner’s drawing of your creature to your original drawing. How close is it?

This activity demonstrates an important principle about reading and writing. As a writer, always remember that your readers construct in their own heads the images that come from your words. In this way, the reader and the writer are creating the story together. When both parties do their job well, it feels like magic–think of how you felt the first time you read Harry Potter!

Does the reader’s image have to be exactly the same as the writer’s? No, but if they are too different, the story can be confusing. Writers can’t explain EVERY little detail—that would bog down the story too much. The writer’s job is to choose carefully the details we include and provide enough description for the reader to paint their own pictures.

To extend the activity, students can revise their original descriptions and repeat the exercise with another partner.

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