This exercise is one I picked up from “Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques” by James Hynes.
Objective #1: Think of a vivid image (from whatever source). Describe it in as much detail as you can.
So, here goes.
His hand is outstretched, palm up. I say his, but, really, he is obscured in shadow. The room is darkened, no lights at all, but the window in the door behind him is streaming with late afternoon light. Not bright; the day is cloudy and gray, perhaps it has just rained, or is just about to start. But the light is enough to hide the figure’s features. But it doesn’t hide the room completely. I can see enough to guess this is a shack rather than a house. There are thin bars of light leaking through the walls as well. And the doorway contains a screen door, one of the old wooden kind. I think the screen is missing, but maybe I just can’t tell because of the lighting.
The skin on the hand is dark, a deep mahogany. The fingertips are slightly illuminated, not quite like they are glowing, but they are lighter than the other things I see. Maybe they actually are lighter, and it is not a trick cause by the illumination. But maybe not. The outstretched arm is the same deep tone. I cannot be certain, but I think the head, what I can see of it, and the other arm are also this color. But maybe that is because I expect the skin to be uniform. The hair sits tight to the head of the figure, curly, kinky even. The shape of the silhouette is what makes me think this is a man. From the height, the thinness, the outline of the hair and head, I believe it is a young black man, maybe in his twenties. He looks underfed, and I can see the shape of his bones beneath the skin. Though perhaps the shadows are enhancing that perspective. He is wearing a t-shirt, perhaps an undershirt. It looks like what they call a “wife-beater”, though that term doesn’t fit him at all. It fits him loosely, but not because that is the style, more, I think, because it is a size or two too large for him. And it seems old, worn, thin. Perhaps it is a hand-me-down.