(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)
nb There are no images for this session. You need to create your own with words …
This session is about describing a scene. The stimulus is a descriptive passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. Marquez describes the room where the dead body of Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s friend, Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, has been discovered.
Look at or imagine a scene and describe it in detail.
The stimulus is this paragraph from Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez:
“He found the corpse covered with a blanket on the campaign cot where he had always slept, and beside it was a stool with the developing tray he had used to vaporize the poison. On the floor, tied to a leg of the cot, lay the body of a black Great Dane with a snow-white chest, and next to him were the crutches. At one window the splendour of dawn was just beginning to illuminate the stifling, crowded room that served as both bedroom and laboratory, but there was enough light for him to recognize at once the authority of death. The other windows, as well as every other chink of the room, were muffled with rags or sealed with black cardboard, which increased the oppressive heaviness. A counter was crammed with jars and bottles without labels and two crumbling pewter trays under an ordinary light bulb covered with red paper. The third tray, the one for the fixative solution, was next to the body. There were old magazines and newspapers everywhere, piles of negatives on glass plates, broken furniture, but everything was kept free of dust by a diligent hand.”
This is about using words to describe objects and their locations to create an image in the mind of the reader. Garcia Marquez describes the objects in the room where the body was found and is able to bring to our minds a strange, somehow exotic but gloomy room, disorganised and containing a mixture of very ordinary objects and unusual, specialist equipment that belonged to the person who used it. His language evokes an image in the reader and leaves an impression on us of who the dead man was.
Either choose a scene from memory, look at a photograph or describe what’s in front of you.
Write down the objects you can see, their shape, size, location. Choose adjectives to describe the objects and to convey the mood of the scene. Write these down too. You could build up a page of notes, listing objects, describing their locations and selecting adjectives to describe them.
Did you notice how Garcia Marquez tells us what time of day it is in the scene he creates for us? Decide what time of day it is in your scene and work out a way to use the objects to help you convey this to your readers.
Did you notice the first word of the passage by Garcia Marquez? It was the word ‘he’. So, the writer describes the scene from the point of view of a particular person. You could do the same. Think of a person or create a character and describe the scene from this person’s point of view.
Word count and process
The passage above is just under two hundred words long. You could aim for about the same with your own descriptive piece.
When you have created notes, and when you have decided on a character from whose perspective you are going to describe the scene, find a comfortable writing place and start fitting your notes into complete sentences.
Imagine your character looking at the scene and write about the sights as if his or her eyes are moving around, taking in everything that can be seen.
Take a moment. Read what you have written. Think of the words you have used. Are there other words you could use to say what you want? Change words, add words.
Take another moment. Do the same again. Then check your piece for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your description make sense?
Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!
The length of the thinking and note-taking process depends on the complexity of the scene you are describing, of course. The writing of the piece should maybe take not more than around 15 minutes. You might do it more quickly.
The more you write, the longer you should probably take with proofreading and editing. At The Safe House, we often think that the proofreading and editing stage of the writing process can take longer than the initial writing. However long it takes, it is a vital part of the writing process if you are going to let other people read what you have written!
If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:
Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!