I thought it was time for a writing prompt. Here is a great exercise to do, courtesy of Janet Burroway and John Gardner, that you can share with a writing friend.
In five minutes, write a description of one of the following settings. Do not mention the circumstances or emotion.
- A description of a barn as seen by an old man or woman whose son has just been killed in a war.
- A description of a lake as seen by someone who has just committed a murder.
- A description of a grocery store as seen by a mother or father of three small children. The parent is away from the children for the first time in a week.
Read the descriptions with at least one other person. Readers need not guess the circumstances. The point is to give feedback on the mood evoked in the description and to identify the details that reflect that mood.
As a follow-up, write one paragraph to fit a story-in-progress in which the main character’s emotion or mood is reflected in his or her perception of a particular setting.