A box of thought-provoking, "found objects" prompts fiction and poetry writing when accompanied by the following kinds of questions:
- Who treasures this object, and why?
- When did s/he receive or find it?
- What were the circumstances of the receiving of this object?
- Did someone give it to him/her, and if so, why?
- Does the object evoke happiness, sadness, anger, nostalgia...?
- Does the object represent a memory, or will you show the character pondering it for the first time?
- Will you allow your character to narrate the story of this object, or will you choose third-person omniscient point-of-view?
- What if the character has found the object after losing it; or what if the character has just lost this object and that is the event in your story?
I advise my students to answer the above kinds of questions in their object-prompted short stories or poems. The only requirements of this exercise are the use of multi sensory imagery and my "D.A.D. Technique for Painting Word Pictures" (the use of Description, Action, and Dialogue). Below is a sample, written by a talented new student of mine, named Allison, about the object in the picture.
by Allison, age 11
I opened up the pencil case, hoping for another eraser to use, but instead, I found something else. I fingered the smooth object. A silent tear escaped from my eye.
“Why’d you leave?” I whispered. Without my wanting to, the memory, from three years ago, flashed in my head.
“Amy dear...” Grandma Jen stopped me at the door. “Before you begin third grade, I want you to have this.” She stroked my wavy brown hair, pulling it into a ponytail, and handed me a rock. But no ordinary rock. A butterfly shaped rock.
I gazed into her blue eyes. How I’d always wanted pretty blue eyes like hers, instead of my drab brown ones!
“What’s it for?”
“Oh, just a good luck charm for when baby Ty comes from the hospital.”
“Almost, sweetie! Now run along, you’ll be late for school.”
A day later, terrible news reached me at school.
“Amy,” Mrs. Sunn had beckoned me to her desk.
“What,” I stayed firmly in my seat.
“This is serious, don’t be stubborn.”
I sighed loudly, walking up to her desk. Was I in trouble?
“Your grandma was in an accident today while walking home from the store," Mrs. Sunn informed me.
Suddenly, everything was blurry. The news of my grandma's death was heartbreaking, because we’d always been very close. Then I broke down and started really bawling. I hoped the kids in my class wouldn’t laugh, for they had never been really nice to me. But, they didn’t. Maybe the good luck charm really was a good luck charm.
“Grandma!” I managed to cough out.
I don’t remember much more about her death, but I know that, for the past three years I’ve never felt the same. I put the rock back into the box, not wanting the memory to come upon me again.
Suddenly Ty barged into my room.
“Amy! Mama’s mad ‘cuz I didn’t eat my lunch!”
“Ty…” I began, “Mom made that lunch specially for you, and she even used Grandma’s recipes; those are very complicated. In fact, Grandma would even say, ‘Don’t waste food that’s been made with care.’"
“But-but the aspawagas is gwoss!” Ty protested.
“Mom has a reason to be mad,” I sighed. “You should always remember, Grandma was very important to Mom and me, so we want you to, at least, cherish Grandma’s ways, you know." I touched Ty’s fine, brown hair.
How I’d always wanted pretty blue eyes like Ty’s.
The circularity of Allison's story--with the repeated line "How I'd always wanted pretty blue eyes like..."--touched my heart, showing a nostalgic tone and an acknowledgment that people we love live on in us, even after they have passed away. This story not only uses multisensory description and subtle character development via D.A.D., but also illustrates a depth in both the character and the author herself. Congratulations, Allison!
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and this story feels very appropriate to post today, as a tale of thankfulness for fond memories.