This post is shallow (pun intended); it is all about the surface, the skin. Our object of gaze: animals, a recurring descriptive writing topic in examinations. We are going to do some serious wildlife watching this time.
Nobody can deny that the world would be a dull place without our furry friends. With a mind-boggling variety of colours, patterns and textures, they can be quite a task to describe. ‘A tiger has stripes, a snake has scales and a dear has spots’ can sound just meh. How to present the obvious in novel and engaging ways is a continuing challenge at the heart of descriptive writing. Children struggle with it, and so do adults.
In this post, we attempt to create a rich word bank for a stock of images that describe the patterns and textures of our animal friends. Keeping in mind that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, let’s get started with the first skin type.
Many animals in the cat family – cheetah, leopard and jaguar – owe their splendid beauty to their spotted skin or fur. A quick glance at the thesaurus yields some interesting synonyms for spotted: dappled, dotted, peppered, flecked, freckled, sprinkled, speckled, mottled, bedecked etc.
Now we come to the intriguing, and somewhat tricky, part: creating a mesh of these words, together with, strokes of highly sensory language to describe the aforesaid animals:
The blanket of its hazel-coloured fur, embossed with rich black polka dots, radiated grandeur. (Cheetah)
The recesses of rosettes were royal to visualize, whether the beast stood still or was in motion. (Leopard; rosette is the flower or rose pattern characteristic of a leopard’s fur)
Pops of blue, green, golden, and turquoise were daubed in intricate patterns onto its resplendent plumage to imitate the dappled sunlight reflected among the multi-coloured leaves.’ (Peacock)
Let's move onto domestic animals.The dairy cow species – theHolstein Friesian cow – has black and white spots in unique patterns so that no two cows have spots exactly resembling each other’s.
‘Moo, moo,’ cried the timid cow, swinging its tail to and fro, as though the tail’s tip was supposed to mark places on the peculiar maps created by its mottled skin.
Snowy white speckles sparkled in the sun as the hen foraged the ground for grains and worms early out of bed.
Next, a catalogue of synonyms for striped include barred, stripy, banded, lined, striated, ribbed, streaky, streaked, grooved etc.
Let’s deploy these words to sketch a few animals.
The bright, bold black stripes grooved the amber-orangish base as the tiger attempted to camouflage itself amidst wilderness to cunningly pounce on the prey.
The faded tan streaks were a no match against the glittering twinkle of its dazzling eyes. (Tabby cat)
The striated coat of white and black lines created a picture of ink sprinkled on icy surface. (Zebra)
The charm of the homochromous auburn fur amplified with the solid black bands that barred the entire length of its trunk. (Striped hyena)
A peek at the trusty thesaurus this time showcases checkered, cubed, slabbed, gobbets, lumps, blots, wedges etc.
Here we go with our evocative depictions:
The light bronze gobbets were like tangible squares you felt tempted to touch and press like buttons. (Giraffe)
The pitch-black blots glistened on the domed shiny red body of the beetle, appearing like diamonds lying on a silky sheet. (Ladybug)
Have you ever wondered how sheets of scales covering the skin of a variety of reptiles often look like detachable structures that would break and fall off any moment as the animals move? These scales find interesting complements in the form of plates, flakes, peels, tiles, scutes, lamina etc.
The turtle popped out its bashful face from beneath the sturdy shield of its scutes.
The fish stopped and shed water, as though separately from each of its silvery flakes.
The devilish crocodile opened its jaw and moved quickly from side to side, making the oblong tiles of hard skin on its body more prominent to the eye.
Although animals with monochromatic skin lack natural shades and colours, we can certainly use vibrant adjectives to vividly represent them. The archive of synonyms to play with entails unicoloured, piebald, pied, homochromous etc.
Let’s first paint the sketches of the adorable penguin and panda.
The pristine white front was feathery and blubbery, contrasting starkly with the deep black flippers which the penguin spread to take its flight.
The teddy bearish appearance of the cute panda was intimately related to its monochromatic fur which symbolized innocence and purity.
The horse's piebald adult coat was an exotic black, blotched with gleaming patches of white.
The white-black colossal coat of the Orca whale could underestimate the blood thirstiness with which this giant slayer of the waters chased all weaker aquatics.
The pied kingfisher heroically shook its monochromatic plumage, announcing that it was no less a competition in beauty to its colourful counterparts.
Hope this post helps you to see animal patterns and textures in a new light now.