Painting with Five Basic Brush StrokesImage Grammar: Using Grammatical Structures to Teach WritingHarry R. Noden Painting with Participles Painting with Absolutes Painting with Appositives Painting with Adjectives Shifted Out of Order Painting with Action Verbs Combining Strokes
Painting with Participles • Participles—an –ing verb form tagged on the beginning or the end of a sentence to enhance the action • Weak: The diamond-scaled snakes attacked their prey. • Lightly coated: Hissing, slithering, and coiling, the diamond-scaled snakes attacked their prey. • Heavily coated: Hissing their forked red tongues and coiling their cold bodies, the diamond-scaled snakes attacked their prey.
Participial Painting Flying through the air on the wings of a dream, the Olympic long jumper thrust the weight of his whole body forward. (Cathleen Cory) Melody froze, dripping with sweat, hoping with all her might that they wouldn’t hear the noise. A beam of light swung out into the darkness, searching. (Becky Swab) The rhino, caught in the tangled rope, looked for freedom. (Erika Schreckengost) (Note that Ericka used the past tense participial form).
Painting with Absolutes • Absolute—a noun combined with an –ingparticiple to create action • Weak: The mountain climber edged along the cliff. • Stroked: The mountain climber edged along the cliff, hands shaking, feet trembling. OR: • Hands shaking, feet trembling, the mountain climber edged along the cliff. OR: • Feet trembling on the snow-covered rocks, the mountain climber edged along the cliff. (Note that adding three absolutes overloads the picture and diminishes the effect, while one or two creates a dynamic image.)
More Painting with Absolutes • Mind racing, anxiety overtaking, the driver peered once more at the specimen. (Erin Stralka) • I glanced at my clock, digits glowing florescent blue in the inky darkness of my room. (JennCoppolo) • Jaws cracking, tongue curling, the kitten yawned tiredly, awaking from her nap. (Tara Tesmer)
Painting with Appositives • Appositive—a noun phrase that adds a second image to a preceding noun to expand detail in the reader’s imagination, providing a new perspective • Weak: The raccoon enjoys eating turtle eggs. • Stroked: The raccoon, a scavenger, enjoys eating turtle eggs. • Better: The raccoon, a midnight scavenger who roams lake shorelines in search of food, enjoys eating turtle eggs.
More Painting with Appositives • The volcano, a ravenous God of fire, spewed forth lava and ash across the mountain. (Ben Quagliata) • The old Navajo woman, a weak and withered lady, stared blankly. ( Jon Vadnal) • The waterfall, a tilted pitcher, poured the fresh, pure spray into the creek. The essence of natural beauty, tranquil and majestic, it seamed to enchant the forest with a mystical rush that echoed throughout the untouched virgin paradise. (Allie Archer)
Painting with Action Verbs • By eliminating passive voice and reducing being verbs, writers can energize action images. Verbs of passive voice communicate no action. The image is like a still photograph with the subject of the action frozen with the prepositions by or with.
Passive vs. Active Voice • Passive: The runaway horse was ridden into town by an old, white-whiskered rancher. • Active: An old, white-whiskered rancher rode the runaway horse into town. • Passive: The grocery store was robbed by two armed men. • Active: Two armed men robbed the grocery store.
Action vs. Being Verbs • Being Verb: The gravel road was on the left side of the barn. • Action Verb: The gravel road curled around the left side of the barn. • Being verbs function like passive voice, but can effectively convey a mood of passivity when a passage requires it for effect. • If a student has difficulty replacing a being verb with an action verb, the being verb may belong there.
Painting with Adjectives Shifted Out of Order • Purpose: to amplify the details of an image, creating a spotlight that intensifies the image • Why? To avoid overloading descriptions with too many consecutive adjectives in normal order, a signature of childish writing • Weak: The large, red-eyed, angry bull moose charged the intruder. • Strong: The large bull moose, red-eyed and angry, charged the intruder. • “And then, suddenly, in the very dead of night, there came a sound to my ears, clear, resonant, and unmistakable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles
Combining StrokesExample 1 Then it crawled in. A spider, a repulsive, hairy creature, no bigger than a tarantula, crawled into the room. It crawled across the floor up onto his nightstand and stopped, as if it were staring at him. He reached for a nearby copy of Sports Illustrated, rolled it up, and swatted the spider with all his might. He looked over only to see a hideous mass of eyes and legs. He had killed it. Just then, another one crawled in, following the same path as the first. He killed that one too. Then another one came, and another and another. There were hundreds of them! Hands trembling, sweat dripping from his face, he flung the magazine left and right, trying to kill the spiders, but there were too many. He dropped the magazine. Helpless now, his eye darted around the room. He could no longer see the individual spiders. He could just see a thick, black blanket of movement. He started squirming as he felt their fang-like teeth sink into his pale flesh like millions of tiny needles piercing his body. --Adam Porter, Eighth-grade
Combining Brush StrokesExample 2 The old man, feeble and stiff, tenderly embraced his beloved cello. A single tear slid down his wrinkled face. His arthritic hands shook as the bow quivered back and forth. He wore an out-of-style jacket, an old-fashioned plaid. His shaggy eyebrows glistened with sweat, and his sideburns grew overgrown and wild. His cello, a piece of art, was old and had clearly been used. Decades of polishing made the wood shiny. In a scratchy, weak voice, the old man cursed his hands for being so stiff and sore. He suddenly gasped as a spasm of pain swept through his arm. Exhausted, he gently laid his cello in the soft velvet case and lowered himself onto his bed. As he lay there, memories of his childhood started to stir in his mind. He remembered coming home after school and practicing the cello for hours. He remembered playing solos in his high school orchestra, and then later in his life playing with world known orchestras. Smiling gently, he brought his cello, his life-long friend and partner, close to him and fell asleep. --Cary Cybulski
Combining Brush StrokesExample 3 The Snake Eyes darting, lips parting, the snake flicked its tongue. Body slithering, scales quivering, its rattle beat like a drum. Cold blood boiling, body coiling, the snake attacked its prey. Feet scurrying, paws hurrying, the mouse could not get away. --Michele Leighty Eighth grade