Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: The First Face You See

OConnor.jpegWhere do you write? Do you have pictures on the walls? Windows? Is it a coffee house where you escape the noise and chaos of home? Are you alone or are there people? When you look up from this blog post, whose is the first face you see?

Make a note of it. Because that’s the person you’ll be writing about for the next five minutes.

For me, it’s Flannery O’Connor. I have a drawing of her on the wall behind my computer. Watching me. Most likely judging me. But I’m going to try to forget she’s an iconic American writer for the time being and try to just look at her face and give her a story. And I want you to do the same, with the first person you see. If you know them, forget their name. If you don’t, give them one.

Five minutes. Go.


She was under the impression, coming here, that there’d be someone interesting to talk to. Instead, it was the same as always: bad food, wine that never agreed with her, and a swarm of buzzing flies dressed in tweed and shiny shoes. They buzzed about their cars and their children and their political opinions that all seemed to be the same no matter which side they claimed to be on, though perhaps that was her apathy talking. Because it didn’t matter. None of it. Not the vol-au-vents with their salmon puree or the state of the university’s marble floors or the president of the United States. It was chit chat, pure and simple, and it was what she despised most in the world. She found herself in a corner after only a half hour of pretense, wiping her glasses on the hem of her skirt and hoping she might disappear like one of the woodsprites in her novel, which would not stop writing itself in her head, as it always did when she was short of pen and paper.

The woodsprites: they were a funny lot. She hadn’t meant the book to flower into whimsy but flower it did and such strange flowers they were. She worried herself, sometimes, that she was falling into allegory, but when working with the woodsprites it wasn’t like she was writing, chugging away to the click-clack steam-powered typewriter, but in the woods on her bare feet, watching them, a scientist cloaked in the leaves.

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