A Picture is Worth 300 Words: Writing Exercise

Last week, in my Creative Writing class, we had a fun little exercise that I couldn't wait to share with you. It was inspired by our book Master Class in Fiction Writing by Adam Sexton. It's one of the best books I've read on writing. I highly recommend it.

The exercise was to take a photo with our camera phones of people (without getting caught, beat-up, or arrested). lol We had to go incognito for this one. Then we were to describe the people as best we could in approximately 300 words. Here was mine:

In a crowded restaurant a young couple sits at a small table for two. His eyes flutter from person to wall to table, as hers stay focused on her salad. He stuffs bread sticks and pasta hurriedly down his throat, as if there is some race to finish. She shuffles her greens from one side of the plate to the next. The only time her eyes flash up to his is when she reaches for her water. Her diamond sparkles in the dull lighting on the Italian restaurant. They’re married? They send a mutual forced smile each other’s way. He breaks the stare before she does.

He’s dressed nicely with the exception that his button up shirt is not tucked into his slacks. She wears a wine colored dress that looks new or maybe it’s just well-pressed. Her face is fancied with loads of makeup, too much rouge, as if inexperienced. Her heeled feet sit crossing at the ankle like a real lady.

She wipes the bright lipstick off the empty wine glass carelessly with her manicured fingers, and occasionally tugs at the bottom of her curled hair. He is still oblivious to her solemn demeanor and seems content that way.

They both sit mostly silent, with the exception of the occasional sentence to the waiter, for the entire meal.

What happened? Why is she so sad?

I glance back at my husband, who has been talking every minute that his mouth is not full of food, and smile.

When doing this exercise, we were to focus on four types of descriptions:
1.) Concrete
2.) Specific
3.) Original (no cliche' descriptions; i.e. raining cats and dogs)
4.) Careful (choice of words)

I thought this was a unique way to capture not only what we were seeing but what we were thinking too. It also captures a bit of the narrator's character. There's so much you can learn from a short bit of writing. Maybe a good saying is, "A thousand words have a million meanings."

Read you later, friends! 

Photo by Photl.


Emily D. Wood said...

This is such a great exercise! I cannot wait to give this a try. I love your descriptions. I could really see this scene in my mind while I was reading. How many times do we see something or someone and think, "There is a story there?" I do it all the time. I just usually do not follow through with writing it. This is great!

Deborah said...

Now I'm intrigued! A very good exercise and yet another reason why anyone who loves to read and write can never be bored...

Trev said...

Good exercise! New follower via book blogs, thought I would say hi! Trev @ trevsliteraryreview.blogspot.com

Hilda K said...

This is a really creative exercise! I love it that your picture and your description, very vivid and beautiful! <3

Thanks for following my blog! New follower here! Look forward to read more about your writing and reading adventure! :)

TheDaydreamer3 said...

Awesome excercise !

I am a new follower :D

Rallu @ The Daydreamer's Book Obsession

Btw..thank you for the visit at my blog :D