Writing Prompt: A Single Second of Film

With The Inevitable Quiet of the Crash opening in Edinburgh this week, I’m thinking in dramatic terms at the moment. BUT that doesn’t mean that you have to write drama for this prompt. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t…

This month, it’s all about the detail. It’s about observation and imagination. It’s about exploration on the most minute level.

This month, I’m challenging you to describe the events of a single second.

It’s up to you what happens in that second. It could be nothing much more than you, sitting on the sofa looking out of the window. Or it could be something much more dramatic, like a gunshot or jumping from a diving board.

Whatever moment you choose, try to imagine every single detail of that one action. Think of it like a single second of film.

What is your body doing (or the body of the person in the scene, if it isn’t you). How do the muscles move? What triggers them? Is it a reflex reaction, or the product of long deliberation? Is the action reluctant or keen? Are the limbs heavy, or quick and agile? What’s going through your mind / the character’s mind? It’s surprising how many things a person can think in one second. There are our active thoughts – the things we’re conscious of thinking, that we might narrate in a stream-of-consciousness. Then there are the other more subtle associations. The smell of herbs that half-take us back to that restaurant in Italy; the way the light catches the window, which makes us feel all warm inside. The things we feel without actually thinking them aloud.

Then of course, there’s what’s happening in the rest of the scene. Are the surroundings changing? Is there something happening far away that affects the mood? What happened just before? What’s about to happen next? All these things have an effect on the moment.

So that’s my challenge. Tell the story of a second. The whole story. In a single second.

Good luck!

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1 Comment

  1. Sally’s Second.
    (slightly rushed)
    “It wasn’t so much a crunch, it was more of a pop! And so ended the conversation. We were almost there, he’d almost agreed – the sound of his reluctance, sighing through the hairs of his moustache… but I’d have to wait, now, I had even more pressing concerns.
    She couldn’t have seen me, the rain wrought it’s havoc, and Stanley Street was busy enough in the calm of a school week afternoon. This was the end of August. We were in Bedlam. I’d find out how my long-weekend was going to turn out later. It was so close, I could hear my heart throbbing in the brief – yet, agonisingly, long – pause, that had ended with our unforeseen thunk!
    We froze.
    My shop-laden arm balanced awkwardly on the point of her sophisticated umbrella – it’s sharp Black of success complementing the gaudy comedy of my own sunshine-and-pink-hearts brolly, currently dancing it’s own windy minaret. To be honest, I couldn’t see what it was doing. A smell of freshly baked, shop-bought, cupcakes wafted heartily through the downpour, slightly out of sync with the cupcakes themselves, their tray, and box, appearing in my peripheral vision. Proving my initial concerns of the goings on of my brolly arm.
    We froze.
    I am staring at her beautifully branded foot, more precisely, I am gawping at the little sliver of gold-sparkle plastic and glass, micro-chips, connectors and brilliant things just beneath the Gucci’s. Her knees mirror mine, we are crouched – almost – in the street, in the rain together, our matching, soaking, Uniqlo macs forming a barrage of surprise across the pavement of this bustling street. She is staring at her foot too.
    As her Oops quickly splashes away in the pouring air around us, I can’t help notice that my beloved, my fabulous, phone made more of a pop than the expected crunch. It didn’t even have time to bounce? Perhaps the eddy and flow of the pavement performed some sort of shlucking action? In that moment, the cornerstone of my daily life. Actually, my very ability to get home right now… Just Popped under this clumsy bitches posh shoes!”

    I tried to focus on details, but as you rightly said there’s so much that can be happening in a second when you focus in on it! Especially when you start thinking of bits of environment you could notice and personal thoughts of characters – it can all go through one’s mind in a second (or at least we can write it like it did). I didn’t want to go on.

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