Ladder of Specificity

There have been many times that I’ve touted the tremendous resource the Carrollton Creative Writer’s Club (CCWC) has been for me, since being invited in the fall of 2009 by Fred Hamlin during my very first book-signing at Borders Bookstore. I’ve made some great networking connections and new friends, some just as crazy as I am. There’s nothing like finding yourself in a room full of people who really understand the weird way a writing mind works. There are some things I can’t fully share with my non-writing friends and family, because they can’t understand. So, for a long time I really felt alone in that part of my life. Now because of the CCWC, I know many writers and it feels much like a family – filled with all kinds, some you like, some you don’t like, some you’d never admit any relation, and others you admire, respect and find inspiration, but you’re connected to them all.

Yesterday at the Tuesday CCWC, we had a guest speaker, Jo Brachman of Pine Lake, GA. I was late to the meeting so I missed her resume, but made it just in time for the first assignment concerning a writing technique called “Ladder of Specificity”. Though the program was targeted especially for poetry, I always look for a way to associate everything to apply and enrich my novel writing.

What is a ladder of specificity? According to my understanding it’s a writing technique that starts with a topic with the most general of description being applied to the bottom rung of a ladder. As you climb each rung of a ladder, the writer is to add to the depth of the description and meaning by becoming more specific. There’s no limit to how many rungs, or how tall your ladder can be, until you’ve creatively achieved the desired inspiration. This method is to help with preventing or remedying writer’s block.

With this exercise, we were instructed to use descriptions that will help avoid lifeless word choices by focusing on things such as amounts, numbers, calculations, physical senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, shape, size, color, texture) and the who, what, where, when and why.

Here is the result of my ‘ladder of specificity’ after being given a prop. We were handed three items (a feather, a match stick and/or an old utensil). I chose the matchstick for my ladder. Don’t forget to read from the bottom – up.

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