Hands Description–Part 2

Here is yet another exercise from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich, for character description.  Too often writers simply tell who their characters are, rather than showing them through description or actions.  This exercise calls for the focus to be on the hands of a character, and to show who that character is based on their hands. 

It’s hard to look past the rest of her appearance at first.  She has a sort of ethereal presence about her that occupies the senses.  Any movement she makes is accompanied by the jangling and tingling of jewelry, which was made by either her or her friends.  Her face is made-up to be beautiful, but not in the conventional way—it’s pretty like a painting, her face serving as a canvas.  She wears so much perfume that it not only distracts the nose, but travels down the back of the throat and into the mouth so one can actually taste what she’s wearing.

But get past the jangling, the glittering, the make-up and the perfume and it’s her hands that get noticed.  Possibly because they contrast with the rest of her, in that they are grounded in the world of toil and not of glamour—but also because they’re worth noticing.

The tips of her right index and middle fingers, and the inside of her thumb, are constantly black.  They’ve been stained too much with color.  She holds the paint-brush too close to the bristles to escape with clean hands, but she doesn’t care.  Holding the bristles close lets her feel like she’s a part of her work, and she likes her painting to leave a sort of birthmark on her.  This stain on her skin is also reinforced every time she uses charcoal to etch out another design, another idea, to color with paint and bring to life.

Along the crevices of her nails run different colors that change on a day to day basis.  Sometimes the inset of her nails are rife with turquoise, other times stained with lavender, occasionally they’re coal black with traces of silvers.  Her wrists always house some misplaced brushstroke—hiding behind some bangles—that she didn’t catch when she washed off.

She paints when she talks, as well.  Whether or not her story is worth it, she tells it with poetic description.  She draws with her hands as well as with her words.  Her palms mark the space in front of her with broad, defining strokes.  Her fingers trace the delicacies of the picture, the details and the nuances a viewer might miss if he doesn’t pay attention.  The whole picture emerges like the center of a blooming flower when she finishes; her hands having danced like leaves to trace out the wind of her words, on which they rode.

Hands Description–Part 1

Here is yet another exercise from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich, for character description.  Too often writers simply tell who their characters are, rather than showing them through description or actions.  This exercise calls for the focus to be on the hands of a character, and to show who that character is based on their hands. 

Enjoy!

The first thing you notice about her is her fingers; they’re always moving.  It wouldn’t be so noticeable if the rest of her weren’t so shock still, as though she were perpetually caught in fight or flight syndrome.  She won’t look down or away but stares straight ahead, far off, and doesn’t really see you; her voice is so soft it’s like a distant echo.  The only part of her that seems present is those constantly fidgeting fingers.

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The Doctor’s Office–Part 3

This is part three of another exercise from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich.  The idea is to write the same scene from three different perspectives, and see explore how the exact same event can be different from a different character’s point of view.  This is similar to the four part “Genesis” exercise I did earlier, except instead of first person I’m utilizing subjective third person.  I used Novakovich’s suggestion for the event my scene is based around, which takes place in a doctor’s office.

Cathy Vidic knew Dr. Herbert wasn’t the kind of doctor Ms. Hayes needed.  Right when she checked Ms. Hayes in, Cathy could tell this was the confident kind of woman who didn’t need any hand-holding; if anything, Lisa Hayes needed a subtle directness.  Analyzing and adapting to patients is what Cathy did best.  It’s what made her a good nurse.  Even when Cathy’s first impression was wrong, she could usually catch her error and adjust her behavior to fit the patient’s needs.  She wasn’t perfect, of course—Cathy was certain there were those she read wrong—but she did her best.

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The Doctor’s Office–Part 2

This is part two of another exercise from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich.  The idea is to write the same scene from three different perspectives, and see explore how the exact same event can be different from a different character’s point of view.  This is similar to the four part “Genesis” exercise I did earlier, except instead of first person I’m utilizing subjective third person.  I used Novakovich’s suggestion for the event my scene is based around, which takes place in a doctor’s office.

Elliot Herbert was the best doctor the clinic had, and he knew it.  His patients were usually older women; for some reason younger women didn’t want a male doctor for a gynecologist.  He found that a little sexist but didn’t take it personally.  All of his patients said he was the best doctor they’d ever had; that he was patient, intelligent, and sensitive to their needs.  One woman had jokingly told him she wished her husband was as sensitive as Elliot.  He’d laughed, of course, but those types of comments made him feel uncomfortable.  He never viewed his patients as sexual objects, and it bothered him when they made these kinds of innuendos.  He found it inappropriate.  He viewed their bodies as bodies; not as objects of desire, or lust, or any of that nonsense—just bodies.  Bodies that needed to be cared for, and treated with the greatest sensitivity and respect—but just bodies none-the-less.  It was wrong to look at a patient in any sort of sexual way, and he wished they would stop looking at themselves that way.

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The Doctor’s Office– Part 1

This is part one of another exercise from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich.  The idea is to write the same scene from three different perspectives, and see explore how the exact same event can be different from a different character’s point of view.  This is similar to the four part “Genesis” exercise I did earlier, except instead of first person I’m utilizing subjective third person.  I used Novakovich’s suggestion for the event my scene is based around, which takes place in a doctor’s office.

The nurse seemed nice enough.  She had a friendly smile, and made small talk to distract Lisa from the business at hand.  When she needed to ask Lisa a question about her forms, the nurse kept it professional.  Lisa thought she’d chosen a good clinic, based on how the nurse was behaving; probably didn’t even need to tell them she had a pelvic floor dysfunction, which made cervical exams damn near impossible.  Half the doctors she’d seen in the past would just get frustrated waiting for her to relax and just jam the speculum in—the other half just patronized her about her own body (in an attempt to be sensitive) until she was ready to cry from frustration herself.  Worse, her insurance required her to do this crap every sixth months but they wouldn’t pay for her to see a physical therapist to make it any easer.  Women were always getting fucked.

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Three People in a Restaurant–an Exercise in Dialog

This is a combination of exercises from Josip Novakovich’s The Fiction Writer’s Workshop.  The purpose of this exercise is to take three people (two men and a woman) and put them in a restaurant.    Through their body language and dialog, the writer is to reveal what each character thinks of the others without directly saying it.  Hopefully, I did that here.  Enjoy!

The restaurant was elegant and overpriced, and Tom didn’t much care for it.  He didn’t look at the crystal chandeliers, the red carpeting or the white table cloths.  Instead he stared at the woman across the round table from him.  The carnations which served as a center piece didn’t obstruct his view, nor make his staring any more subtle; but he wasn’t worried about her noticing.  His eyes tracked her arms and hands as they danced through the air, her bangles shining like pixie dust and twinkling with her voice as they brushed together.  Tom was leaning back in his chair as he stared at Audrey—the woman across the table.  Everything of him was pointed at Audrey: his eyes, his chest, his hands restring on his lap.  His feet reached under the table—occasionally, in her animated way of talking, Audrey would accidentally brush his shin with her high-heel.

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Composite Scene

I did this exercise to practice story beginnings.  The idea is to describe a routine in a composite scene, rather than just as a vague narrative.  I might continue with these characters and create an actual story, but for now, enjoy.

Once again, this is from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich.

Every Saturday was spent bike-riding through the park, followed by a picnic.  They would each have a small, light breakfast (a thin onion bagel with liberal amounts of veggie cream-cheese for Sarah, and a small bowl of almond granola for John).  When they’d finished breakfast, Sarah prepared the picnic—usually something simple like sandwiches and grapes—while John cleaned up breakfast.  The running water, clink of dishes in the sink, and loud then quiet hum of the refrigerator after its door had been opened and closed, were the only sounds they made in the kitchen.  Sarah and John had a way of communicating without words.

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