Sunday, February 26, 2012

Five Easy Pieces

I normally write these on Tuesdays after class, however, I had two posts on that Monday (#1 and #2) and didn't want to overload my loyal friends and followers with a third one on Tuesday. Also, the teacher didn't return our work from the previous week. Anyway, we did some really interesting in-class writing that I wanted to share with you. The topic was "insight" and how we as writers can express it without sounding pretentious and annoying.

The teacher handed us a photographed page from a book. I'm not sure what book it came from, but the title of the article was "Five Easy Pieces" by Richard Jackson. In it, the author lists five things to use to formulate a scene (poetry or prose). You start with a person (real or imagined) and a place where you might find that person, then follow the steps below. Try this on your own, you might be surprised at the results. Give yourself 15 minutes and then stop. What I came up with follows.

  1. Describe the person's hands.
  2. Describe something he or she is doing with their hands.
  3. Use a metaphor to say something about some exotic place.
  4. Mention what you would want to ask this person in the context of 2 and 3, above.
  5. The person looks up or toward you, notices you there, and gives and answer that suggest he or she only gets part of what you asked.
by M. Andrew Patterson

His hands were smooth
Never having labored over a hot stove in July
The grease burning and searing the skin
The charcoal embedding under your nails.

His pencil twitched a rapid staccato
As his hand moved it smoothly over the page
A ballerina in graphite
Dancing through Elysian fields
A swan over stormy seas.

"What do you think?" I ask it. I dread it
A pause -- A dip
The dancing done.

"Tuesday would be a good time, you think?" 

The next in-class writing assignment was to take an ordinary kitchen appliance or utensil and write about it from a different perspective. We had to write it in 8-9 sentences and we had to avoid describing it to obviously. We had to be creative. We had 10 minutes.

Kitchen Appliance in 8 Sentences
by M. Andrew Patterson

Oh you conveyor of mana. That heavenly nectar that raises us from our slumber. We imbibe on your holy blood. Your divine vessel filled with riches. It stains our lips and tongue. It marks us with its earth-bound scent. Warily we dare not spill it for its kiss will surely burn us. Oh, how we worship you.

'Till next time.


  1. Huh. I like that. I actually didn't really understand what the directions meant until I read what you wrote, which was very good, by the way. What a great exercise!

    1. It was the same for me when the teacher introduced the concept initially. Definitely one of those things that requires an example.