What is it that captures your imagination?
What is it that can so swiftly turn your attention from all the trivial things that otherwise occupy you and draws you into an entirely new world, one of your own making?
For me is anything that makes me see things from an angle different to that from which I usually see. At 11 years old, I was six-foot-tall and my peers, relishing their appropriate lack of height used to ask me, with distressing banality, just what it was I could see from up there. But what could I see from my vantage point that they couldn’t? Does a different perspective change the way you see the world?
Try these: Describe
- School-kids as seen by the bus driver who has to take them home
- Your bedroom as seen by a friend who has never seen it before
- A baker’s shop at the end of the day, as seen by the last remaining bun or jam tart
- A family argument as seen by a pet
- A dentist’s waiting room as seen by a fish in a fish tank
- Night as witnessed by an owl
- Passers-by as seen by a homeless person’s dog
- A shore as experienced by a refugee who has been on a boat for a number of days
- A bank robbery as experienced by someone lying face-down on the floor, trying not to be noticed
Or how about something a bit more challenging? Describe
- Your street as seen by a drone
- A newly married couple as seen by a camera
- Rush hour as experienced by a pavement
- Emptiness as experienced by a house that has been left abandoned
- Someone leaving as seen by something left behind
- Rain as experienced by parched ground
- The coming of autumn as experienced by a tree
- Being found as experienced by something lost
Added variety: Change the Narrative Position
These descriptions can most obviously be relayed through First Person Narrative – that is when the pictures are described to us by one of the characters in the scene. This character is identified as “I” (and “me/my”) – or, if another character is contributing to the description, “we” (“Us/our”.)
But you can change the narrative position for a different viewpoint, adding further interest to your writing.
For a tougher challenge, try to communicate your description using Second Person Narrative. This used when your character is speaking to himself/herself. Second person narration can lead to deeply reflective and very personal writing. Use “you” throughout.
Or ow about using Third Person Narrative (when the description is given by a character (or characters) outside the scene)? Use its name, and/or “he/she/it/they” to identify your protagonist. The difficulty with this position is that it isn’t easy to focus on the characters’ thoughts; instead you need to describe what your character says and does. This is good for straightforward story-telling.
Examples to help you on your way: Rush-hour as experienced by a pavement
|First person: (like it is telling its story to an audience)
It’s not at all like it used to be, I can tell you. Back in the day, rush-hour was exactly as the name suggests – a bit of a rush for an hour or so. Then it was back to normal. Not now though. I don’t know what has happened in recent years.
It doesn’t seem to matter what the weather is like, I get the footsteps from breakfast time until mid-morning, at least. And none of this loitering, take-your-time stuff either. Oh no! Heels and toes, heels and toes, marching, marching… It’s probably a bit of a cliché to say it’s like an army overhead, but it truly is. I lie there, stretched and braced, while the feet keep treading me down, pressing my stone, scuffing my tar, using me to move ever onwards. I can feel their stresses in their every tread. I sense in their strides restlessness, urgency and ambition. Everyone has got to be getting on; everyone but me, of course. I just lie here and take it.
|Second person: (like it is talking to itself)
You never get thanked and there have been times when you wonder whether it has been worth it, keeping the city moving. Rush hour is always the hard part, you understand that, but you do crave the occasional glance downwards, the occasional recognition.
Being a pavement is not something anyone can do, you keep telling yourself. It’s not a skilled occupation, but you take pride in what you do because you have to be responsible and you have to be strong. Well, you do in the city. You don’t have much time for all these seaside promenades with their la-di-da attitudes and splashes of salt spray – or these country lanes with their grass growing down the middle and trees holding hands overhead… You couldn’t cope with that, couldn’t justify your existence, could you? You have always needed a purpose. Getting the shoes to where they are going. Pointing them in the right direction…
And what shoes! You have become a bit of a connoisseur over the years, something you’d have never achieved had you been a mere country lane…
|Third person: (like someone is looking down on it and describing what they see)
How do the feet travel over the pavement during the rush hour? They don’t stomp or dance. They don’t stumble or trip. Instead they step purposefully, towards the office, towards the station, towards the school… The feet are propelling the people swiftly towards their engagement with what is to happen next, so there can be no pausing to take in the view and no thinking about where best to drop the cigarette or the chewing gum.
The pavement takes it all. It carries, it hustles, it turns the corner and it delivers, but it is ignored. No, even worse than that, it is abused. It is spat at, littered, stamped on and neglected. It has a history which is ignored; famous feet have trodden its stones, but no-one asks for its story. It has delivered to their destinations world leaders, writers, celebrities and murderers. Moving hundreds upon hundreds, it has been a bulk carrier, the calm, cold, centre of each hectic rush-hour, the still place in the advance of each day. The pavement endures but says nothing. How many children have grown into adults while wearing down its stone? And how many pushchairs have grown to wheelchairs while rolling over its tar? The man with the stick once ran its length. The woman with the dog was once the centre of a family which traversed this pavement daily. Where is his energy? Where are her children? Everything changes. But the pavement remains.
The Writers’ Block aims to encourage the creative writer in us all. But we know that not everyone can visit us in Pool so we have asked our creative team of writers & workshop leaders to come up with some writing exercises to share with everyone on line. Each month we will launch a new exercise. If you are inspired by the exercise, please let us know, or publish and submit your writing online to The Story Republic Library.