Writing Prompt: Something Out of Place


This assignment involves descriptive writing. Description rarely stands alone in literature. It is most often woven into the fabric of a story. This assignment, however, is to avoid story-telling and focus on pure description. That means you are to paint a picture using words. Of course your “painting” can appeal to more than just the sense of sight. You can make your reader hear, feel, smell, and taste your subject as well. That’s one advantage writing has over painting.

In one unusual scene in Toni Morrison’s novel, Song of Solomon, two young men come across something unexpected on a car roof in the middle of large city — a peacock. There’s no explanation for its presence. The scene is not important to the plot, though it has symbolic significance. Whatever of the author’s intentions, the image stands out in the reader’s mind because it is a surprising contrast.

Your job in this assignment is to describe an “out-of-place” object. First, imagine a scene with a distinct location (e.g. a frozen pond, a corn field, an airport terminal, etc.) Then imagine an unusual and unexpected object or creature smack in the middle of it (e.g. a trombone, a marble statue, a haystack).

Describe the scene, focusing on the details and the contrasts — not on any character’s reaction to the oddity. Be a careful observer of sights, sounds, smells, etc.

Remember these keys to good description:


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Merri Larsen
    Merri Larsen06-21-2012

    Most definitely plan to use this in a writing class this fall! Thank you for sharing, Brian.

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