Today’s prompt is inspired by three things. The first was the release this week of a US prisoner of war. It made me think of the many hostage and prison stories I’ve read, where people have lived in tiny cells for years on end and how it changes them. The second is the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in which a woman, trapped in her domestic life, fixates on the wallpaper of her room and always finds something new to see. The third is the essay “Fish” by Robin Sloan, which shares an observation exercise, in which students are asked to observe a dead fish long past the point when it would seem to be interesting.
If you can, read both those stories and then try this prompt.
Write about a person who is forced, by circumstance or outside agency, to observe a limited view for an unlimited time.
- Describe what they see, remembering that their use of language will reflect how they feel about the situation they find themselves in.
- How what they see and how they feel about it change over time?
- What do they think about when all they to do is look at the same thing over and over again?
- How does this change over time?
- What does this tell us about the character?
- What universal truths might there be in what your character is thinking?
- If you get stuck, just start a new paragraph as if some time has passed. Have your character describe the view again, and think about how they might have changed in the intervening time.
- Don’t worry if you don’t think this is making a great story. Keep going. You’ll find a way to end it if you let the character speak.