People Watching, #2

Have you done any people watching lately? Last time we looked at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

Via State Library of New South Wales

Aside from knowing that a picture is worth 1000 words, a picture evokes 1000 stories.

If I showed a picture to a dozen students and told them to write a story based on it, I got a dozen unique and varied responses.

If I did this with 1000 students, guaranteed, they’d each have a different combination of character interactions, dialogs, motives, and plots.

As I’ve said before, I revel in this creative diversity. And we each inherently have this innovative ability because we’re made in God’s image. See “Chickens at the State Fair.”

Whether you’re a story writer or not, your own creativity can shine with a little people watching.

This time, we’ll take a look at a black and white photo by Charles F. Walton from the 1930s.

Via State Library of New South Wales

What story is being suggested? You may “change” the setting to someplace other than New South Wales.

Take a few minutes to just immerse yourself in this picture. Then think about these questions. There are no right or wrong answers! You’re calling the shots.

  • Why are these young people reading the newspaper all at once?
  • What are the headlines?
  • Why is the girl standing in the doorway?
  • What or who is that girl in the doorway looking at and why?
  • Where is that lady on the far right coming from?
  • Are all the kids on the curb related or are they neighbors?
  • What are the relationship dynamics among them?
  • Why is the girl on the left standing off by herself?
  • Whose laundry is hanging? Who hung it? Where is that person?
  • What is the tone/mood/atmosphere of this particular day?
  • What brought these people to this point in their lives (one or all)?
  • Who is the main character (protagonist)?
  • What are their personalities? (one or all)
  • What are their moods?
  • What is a typical day like for them?
  • How often do they sit here and read the paper and why?
  • What do they aspire to?
  • Where do they wish they were instead?

So many story possibilities! All in one picture.

So . . . how would YOU answer some of the questions above about this picture? What story do you see unfolding . . . and whose story is it?

I welcome your comments below!

Ever musing,


P.S. Coming soon: an artist whose palette paints glimmers of hope for a broken world

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10 thoughts on “People Watching, #2

  1. Really, this is a great list of questions!
    I love this exercise. I think I’ve said before that your ideas almost make
    me wish I was teaching lit and writing again!
    (I think they are all reading the paper because their team won the championship
    and the little girl off by herself was backing the loser) 🙂

  2. What a great scene! This is what came to my mind:
    They are all siblings, except for the little girl crouching down next to the boy, whom she is sweet on. The girll standing to the far left is her best friend, who doesn’t understand why she likes her ” dumb brother”; she would rather be skipping rope or playing with dolls. The times are hard in the ’30s, and the boys are needing to earn money, so they are looking at want ads. The little girl looking over the brother’s shoulder is chattering at him… things like “whatcha reading, Billy?”, “Are you going to work in the mines? “, “That would be real hard work!”, etc, etc… but he is kind and tolerates her questions, ‘cuz she’s a cute “little kid”, and doesn’t want to be mean to her. The future of this story is that he marries her 12 years later, and she still adores him and hangs on his every word, and he loves her and cherishes her. And they live happily ever after!
    I know…. I am a hopeless romantic! That was fun… Thanks Laura!

    1. Wow, Vicki! You should write a novel! You’ve got the makings of one: various character traits, personality dynamics, conflict, tension, obstacles, dialog, and–of course–romance!

  3. Your list is a wonderful example of how teachers can “excite” their students’ creative minds. I often wonder what my writing would look like today if my teachers had given such lists of prompts! Thank you for sharing!!

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