People Watching #8

Have you done any people watching lately? The first time we looked at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Then we examined a 1930s Charles Walton photograph. After that, we speculated about the dynamics of two girls and a guy at the dinner table. Then we viewed the bicyclist in a race and people traipsing through a winter snow. Then we soared with a young man flying a plane and eavesdropped on two chatting women.

As usual, I loved reading your comments—the ideas evoked by those pictures. The backgrounds, personalities, and situations of each person.

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. 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.

I know it’s spring, but I love this picture of a lovely fall day . . .

Courtesy Elmer Sparks Photography

What story is being suggested?

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

You can choose to answer the questions in regard to both men or just one.

(If you happen to know who these men are, pretend you don’t!)

  • Who are these two men? What are their names?
  • How long have they been here? Has one been here longer than the other?
  • How well do they know each other? Are they close friends? Acquaintances?
  • What are they talking about?
  • What is the one handing to the other?
  • What meaning does that object mean to either or both of them?
  • What are they thinking?
  • What are their moods?
  • What is the setting (approximate time, date, and place, besides in a park by the river)?
  • What is the tone/mood/atmosphere of this particular day?
  • What has led up to this day?
  • What are their personalities?
  • What are their key character traits?
  • How long will they be here?
  • What are their relationship dynamics?
  • What is a typical day like for them?
  • What do they aspire to?
  • Where do they wish they were instead? Or are they happy to be here?
  • What is the title of his story?

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?

I welcome your comments below!

Ever musing,


9 thoughts on “People Watching #8

      1. They are brothers visiting their favorite fishing spot from childhood. One is showing the other a treasure of a find – a lucky fish lure they lost long long ago.

  1. What a great photo! I think they are trying to work out the intricacies of a smart phone 🙂
    You know what else might be fun for an advanced writing group? (or anyone wanting a creative challenge)
    Assign a certain genre—use the picture as a starter for science fiction, or comedy, or tragedy, or espionage or action adventure. Could be a blast to compare!

    (Sorry I didn’t see this delightful post earlier. It got lost in the flood of mail I get every day, even though I try to unsubscribe from most of them. That could be another story starter in the horror genre 🙂 )

    1. If they’re trying to figure out a Smart Phone, they might be standing there a long time!

      I love that genre idea! I think I might have to incorporate that into one of my fiction writing classes.

      I can relate to having a horrific flood of emails.

  2. Everyone else’s ideas are now churning through my head–love the smart phone idea! Hilarious.–But my first thought, probably because I’ve been writing for an assisted living company…

    These two men are best of friends. Have been since they were Opie Taylor’s age. They did everything together. Played right in this very spot, swimming, fishing, catching frogs. They’d scratch their names on small flat rocks and then have competitions to see who could skip them the most across the lake. Then they’d try to see where the rock’s trip ended and dive in to see if they could find the stones. If one did, the other had to buy the ice cream. They only found them twice. Once they even built a Tom Sawyer raft once that sunk right smack dab in the middle of the lake–when they were wearing their Sunday best! Boy, did their moms tan them for that one. But Bert found his skipped rock in the process, so neither of them minded.

    They grew taller, wiser and finished school and went to fight for their country, but unfortunately were separated in different theaters. Both came back scarred, but still best friends. Bought houses next door, married sweethearts and had children. It was a good life.

    But time has moved on now. The wives have passed, the children are busy with their own children, now living in different cities with important jobs.

    And Harry is struggling with Alzheimer’s. He’s had to move into assisted living, and sometimes he doesn’t remember who his gray-haired friend Bert is. So Bert likes to help him remember. He brings Harry to this special spot to remind him of days gone by. The old rotten log they used to sit on by the lake has been removed, but he makes do with this nice bench. He gets Harry settled and today he pulls out his surprise. Placing it in Harry’s arthritic hands, Bert can tell the minute Harry’s fog clears by the smile that covers his face. It’s a small smooth rock. With young Harry’s initials carved into it. Harry pipes up, “I want butter pecan. Two scoops.”

    1. Elizabeth, I love where your musings took you! Such detail of the two boys’ lives together as friends! I about cried at the end at Harry’s sweet memory sparked by Bert’s giving him the rock.

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