Five Easy Pieces

As in the movie this title refers to, we discover things visually in fragmentary form, and what we think we know or see and what someone else knows or sees and what we communicate between those two positions is scant. This exercise attempts to tell a whole story in a quick scene.

It is to be written in five sentences*, and can be done in a class.

There are two preparation steps.

The first step is to remember a person you know well, or to invent a person.

The second step is to imagine a place where you find the person.

Then you are ready for the five pieces.

  1. Describe the person’s hands.
  2. Describe something s/he is doing with the hands.
  3. Use a metaphor to say something about some exotic place.
  4. Mention what you would want to ask this person in the context of 2 and 3, above.
  5. The person looks up or toward you, notices you there, gives an answer that suggest s/he only gets part of what you asked.

* The more experienced could dedicate an entire stanza or section to each piece but a single sentence or line per piece is recommended for beginners.

by M. Andrew Patterson

His hands were smooth
Never having labored over a hot stove in July
The grease burning and searing the skin
The charcoal embedding under your nails.

His pencil twitched a rapid staccato
As his hand moved it smoothly over the page
A ballerina in graphite
Dancing through Elysian fields
A swan over stormy seas.

"What do you think?" I ask it. I dread it
A pause -- A dip
The dancing done.

"Tuesday would be a good time, you think?"