A Thousand Word Picture Challenge

Next Stop New Orleans Square blog Another confession: Once, when I was in a Creative Writing class in college during my undergraduate, I turned in a story. This, in itself, was not altogether bad. The writing of said story, however, was. At one point I’d written something to the effect of, “Words could not describe how he felt.” My critically observant professor replied, “Isn’t that our job as writers? To describe exactly how they feel with words?” Of course, he was right. So then, why do we find ourselves often wanting to throw that “words can’t describe” phrase around? If I can say this without being too harsh, it’s because we’re lazy. We don’t want to spend the time to find the right words, to sit and think, really think, about what it’s like.

There’s another phrase we like to throw around. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Really? When was the last time you looked at a photograph and actually wrote a thousand word description of it? I’m willing to wager you haven’t. Most of us haven’t, myself included. I’ve done about five hundred or so, but never a full thousand.

So, I’m issuing a challenge. Let’s put our keyboards where our mouths are. I’d like you to write a thousand words drawing inspiration from one of the fine photos of my friends over at http://www.toursdepartingdaily.com/.  When done, e-mail it to me (along with a link to the inspiring photo) and I’ll forward it along to the fine people at DLR HDR. If we like it, we’ll put it up on our blogs.

Some guidelines for the sake of consistency: Keep the entry at or just under 1,000 words. Bear in mind that, while photographs primarily appeal to the sense of sight, with the power of words you can delve deeper. Use your imagination to put yourself inside the photo, then deeply imagine (a term I borrow from Bret Anthony Johnston and will blog about soon) what it’s like to be there. What is the weather like? How does the air feel on your skin? What sounds do you hear? Is there an internal feeling that is reflected in the photo? Are there characters? Does the picture lend itself to a story?

This does not need to be a strict line-item list of imagery and sensory description (though it can be that). Feel free to explore the narrative the photo suggests. In the above photo, we have a train coming in to a station (or leaving, if you prefer). Either way, there are likely to be people on the train, embarking or disembarking on a certain portion of their journey. Where are they going? Where are they coming from, etc.

I caution you, however, not to let the narrative assert itself over the imagery. Don’t forget to give us a healthy dose of sensory description: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

Looking forward to your submissions. Until then, good writing.

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