PROMPTuesday #17: Get Specific

Today’s PROMPTuesday is lifted from Naomi Epel’s The Observation Deck, and is sponsored by the dog days of summer, the lethargy unleashed after consuming three urns of buttered popcorn, and menstruation-induced anemia.


So, from the Observation Deck:

Show, don’t tell! — a cardinal rule of writing — is another way of saying “be specific.” Don’t tell us the man got angry; show him punching a wall through the motel wall or biting through his lower lip. Don’t tell us the war was brutal, do as Richard Price suggests: show us the burnt socks of children lying by the side of the road.


So, for this exercise, get specific with your writing. As written in the Observation Deck, “Never just say ‘red dress,” say ‘ultra revealing micro mini with fringe.” Today, write a paragraph or a poem about anything, perhaps your first car, and describe it to the smallest detail. Or, start a sentence to flesh out an adjective, like, “He was so lazy that….”


My brother shared this “show don’t tell” rule with me after a life-changing poetry class he took in college. Here’s one of his poems for you to see the rule as he interpreted it:


Fingers, Or Tahoe


car lit face, bumps like round bricks

move us backwards, will i see a lake


as clear her breath in cold air, fingers

that warm themselves by touching?



set in chilled pie tins shivering like

showers by the window, the snow will


crunch when we step with boots worn soft

from car heat, little stars stapled to the



we would lick time with our

fingers, stuff jackets with the thickness of


my laugh.

Inside hear drips of conversation

from upstairs, peeling water from the walls.


knees deep in my brain. Walks she couldn’t take.

and all this so I could know today is nothing but


yesterday brought back by the smell of

weed and pennies in my bed.


–Mark A.


Now off to your respective PROMPTuesday corners! Please note that there are no rules for this prompt. Today, I’m easy like a Godless Jessica Simpson.


Interested in reading past PROMPTuesdays? Catch up here.


27 Responses to “PROMPTuesday #17: Get Specific”

  1. […] Prompt is a doozy. Today’s PROMPTuesday is lifted from Naomi Epel’s The Observation Deck, and is […]

  2. Tanya Kyi says:

    Mine’s done. And not nearly as lovely as that poem. Looks like talent runs in your family…

  3. […] 12, 2008 by happyhippyraindancer It’s PROMPTuesday (hosted by Deb) again and that means another post of just writing.  Today’s prompt is simply […]

  4. This is my first time participating in PROMPTuesday. I’ll spare you the insecure disclaimers, but I feel so vulnerable, I don’t want this on my own blog! (fear of failure with family issues, blah blah blah)

    Here it is:

    January 1974, northeastern Indiana

    Walking home from school, the grey, winter sky provided a predictable comfort, the path crunching under the ordinary snow boots she had agreed to grudgingly. The shiny, white, pleather go-go boots with the side zip would have been the ideal purchase. She couldn’t convince her father that they would serve as both her school shoes and her winter boots. He said they shouldn’t make go-go boots for third graders.

    The man was where he always was, standing beneath the old tree that was now dormant, pipe smoke gently flowing in thick ribbons from his mouth. They smell always made her oddly hungry. His stiff brown hat seemed fancy and not very warm. Maybe the pipe smoke heated his head, she thought. His pants were always pressed like church pants, and his shoes were hidden beneath rubber galoshes just like the one’s her father wore over his dress shoes.

    Her favorite thing about the man was his coat. It reminded her of steel wool, the tangled ball that rested on the kitchen sink at home. It was a three-quarter length overcoat, charcoal grey, simple black buttons, and she wanted to touch it to see if it was scratchy, soft, or both…

  5. All Adither says:

    Love it. Think I might work on this one.


  6. Once, twice up in the air, then solidly in my palm as I push the screen door aside and step out. The chair shifts slightly as I lower myself into it, sighing. No deadlines here. No keyboards or computer screens. My thumb slides over the universally orange and pockmarked surface nestled in my hand, keeping time with the rhythmic “creak-creak” of the abused and exhausted floorboards beneath me. Across the street, a squirrel jogs in short bursts along a telephone wire, tail so high and bushy, he looks electrified. His is the only visible movement tonight, save mine. I smile and plunge a bright white, manicured nail-tip into taut skin and begin the slow striptease of summer fruit.

  7. San Diego Momma says:

    Can you say, “too many adjectives and similies?”
    I can!

    Black hair the way witches wear it, loose and wild, electric, whipping in an invisible tempest. Skin pale like cat’s cream with just one anchovy floating on top, near the lip. A broom body, straight and unyielding, with splayed feet at the bottom.

    She stood in front of me, tempestuous and trembling like a kite tangled in a tree.

    “Were you going to call?” she said it in the way I knew she’d rehearsed it, again and again, but delivered as if she remained nonchalant. I imagined her in front of her silly ornate mirror. The one where gold flecks on the surface distorted your image until you had to look away, discomfited and tense.

    How do I tell her that she brooded too much? Scared me with her intensity? That I watched as she tossed in uneasy sleep, tying the sheets around her like a silk corkscrew?

    I figured this wouldn’t be easy. I exhaled, my breath a popped balloon.
    I’d keep it simple.
    “No.” Then because the word hung in the air like an bulbous nail on a white wall, I added, “I wasn’t.”

    She stood there one beat too long. Then, pivoted on her heel, a ballerina in a music box not quite wound all the way.

    I watched her float away, and wondered what the mirror would show her today.

  8. Jody says:

    …she slipped out the narrow dark pine door which led down to the cement path below. The night was frosty and cold and she saw her breath white and smokey flow from her pink pursed lips. She stood on the damp path for a minute to see if anyone in the small brick rancher called home, had heard her.
    She was not suppose to be out at night. Her parents had carefully locked the door and slipped back to the faded blue couch to watch TV. They thought the quiet house was down for the night. But she had to see him.
    Tall dark and definitly off limits was the man she desired. He called to her quietly on the phone, whispering “come…”. His words sounded like music to her ears. She could hear the need, the want in them. “Come now..”.
    She walked quickly down the path away from the house and onto the sidewalk; pulling her pale pink chiffon nitie around her narrow hips. She wore nothing next to her skin but this nitie. She shivered. She knew this was wrong, but she could not say no. Was it the cool fall night air or the desire she felt as she heard those words in her mind again…”come quickly..”.
    The lights in the homes bordering the grey hard cement sidewalk were off. It seemed she was the only living breathing person awake in this small college town at this hour. This was a good thing. No one should see her on her quest.
    It was forbidden by her parents to see this man.In their narrow eyes he was all wrong for her. But he was all she could think of.
    She finally saw his house in the distance. It was dark inside and the drapes were pulled, but she knew he was waiting for her. The front door was unlocked and she slipped inside.
    She could smell the roast that had been cooked earlier for dinner. The roast potatoes and carrots with gravy on the side. She knew how he loved this meal and she wished she had been able to sit with him for a meal.
    But the timing was not right yet. Her heart was racing now, as she carefully took steps to the hallway towards his bedroom. “Shhhh” she thought to herself. Must be quiet as not to awaken anyone else in the house. It would be the end of both of their lives as they knew it if they were discovered. They had to steal bits of time to be together. She lived for his touch, his kiss; but this was what had to be for now.
    Quietly, breathing deeply, she pushed the heavy bedroom door open. He was lying there smiling at her. She smiled back, feeling her heart now Jump as he parted his lips and said..”come here…”

    She wondered how long they would meet as secret lovers like this…

  9. Auds says:

    I’m still working on this one as I have the most need for help in this area.

    Will be back!

  10. Csquaredplus3 – I love the way you describe the coat. It makes my fingers twitch, wanting to touch it.

  11. Auds says:

    OK, finally, here it is. I truly suck at this sort of thing, like so many Hoovers lined up in a row…MASSIVE SUCKAGE!

  12. Da Goddess says:

    Such delicious reading!

  13. mami Jen says:

    lopsided weight layed out across the bed,
    big lumpy pillow adding to the discomfort
    awaiting sweet relief soon to be delivered

    aching pressure laces her eyes
    as they focus on the face of the foriegn voice

    invisible knees press against her senseless body

    long is the thin metal needle that enters her exposed spine.

    layed flat, strapped and confuzzeled she lay

    as she awaits that first clean slit to be made upon her large, round abdomen

    1, 2, 3, “I can feel that.” she says in a drug induced tone.

    “I can feel that too.”

    30, 29, 28, 27 turns to grey then to black

    soon to be aroused by the blessed sound of her first born child.

    followed by the inconsistant muttered ramblings of her voice heard in the distance growing louder with the piercing amazement that consumes her soul.

    “Shut up!” snaps the irritated, hard working nurse as she cleans the first of many wounds this tiny boy will make.

  14. Auds says:

    I have edited my suckage and killed that horrendous second paragraph that was really little more than a run on sentence.

  15. San Diego Momma says:

    So I think this is my favorite PROMPT to date.
    I loved reading your stuff.

    And CSquared, it might have been your first, but you knocked it out of the park. Wonderful!

    Jody: I see why they call you “Babycatcher.” :) Your prose could be responsible for some serious baby making.

    Mami Jen: Really good. The last line was perfect.

    As for me, high holy hijinks, could I get MORE specific? It’s like a parody!

  16. Momma Mary says:

    I’m nearly late again, but it is here! I still want to finish reading everyone’s though! I was bad last week and didn’t get to. :(

    PrompTuesday #17

  17. Noble pig says:

    These are great tips. I especially love your use of adjectives with the red dress.

  18. tinsenpup says:

    Csquaredplus3 – This is wonderful. What a debut! Superb descriptions.
    Cocktail – You are GOOD. Love the electric squirrel and the seductive summer fruit.
    SDM – There weren’t THAT many similes – some of them were metaphors! Besides, you do them both so well (“silk corkscrew”) that surely it’d be wrong not to.
    Jody – Very enticing indeed.
    Mami Jen – Oh no, please tell me that a “hard working nurse” didn’t really say this to a newborn? Wonderful piece, though!

  19. Karen says:

    Wow, your brother has some amazing talent. Amazing.

    Here’s my (not quite on Tuesday) entry for this week:

  20. deborah says:

    Sorry to have missed this one, but I was blissfully removed from technology on a desert isle the past two days. Will catch up again one of these Tuesdays.

    Loved reading the submissions though. Lots of wonderful imagery.

  21. Tony says:

    At the Beijing airport
    one ordinary summer,
    she sat across from me,
    no further than five feet away,
    her nose a gracile curve,
    her eyes not so much almond
    as chrysanthemum-sliced,
    her hair a raven shimmer,
    her tiny ankles beneath her high calves,
    their pert upliftedness exposed
    beneath her sensible business-length skirt.
    I watched her at an angle.
    Summer finding the scoundrel in me,
    but knowing I must leave,
    I wrote this line for her:
    The most beautiful person I have ever seen.

  22. […] 12, 2008 by hippiemonkeymama It’s PROMPTuesday (hosted by Deb) again and that means another post of just writing.  Today’s prompt is simply […]

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