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Writing Prompt #19 Still Life in Words

September 21, 2010

Sit down, take a hard look at the most boring thing in sight and describe it as if you had never seen it before. If it is still boring, take another object and treat it like a still life you are going to describe in words instead of producing in paint. That’s the warm up. Next, situate yourself in a familiar place: your living room, a favorite cafe, or your car in the parking lot of the place you work. Imagine a dramatic entrance by a character from one of your favourite books or movies. Now imagine another, very different entrance. Pick them for contrast. For example, the first might be violent and the second joyous.

Here’s the challenge: take two stabs at writing a description making each one set up the reader for the event you mean to introduce. Go for maximum contrast between the description and the pending event. For example, the parking lot might feel boring and tedious prior to the joyous event. The living room might feel safe and homey prior to the scary one. What about the point of view? If you wrote from a first person perspective, the odds are you put a lot of emotion into the narrator. The same is true when working with a close third person perspective. Try removing the narrator and repeating as much as you can of the tensions through straight description. Was it possible to put the emotion back into the scene? If you’ve produced enough runs at the challenge, you should end up with a small collection of descriptions. Spread them out on a table before you and study your own handiwork. Congratulate yourself for your virtuosity.

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