Trying to Tell a Story Without Actually Telling the Story

I am in a creative writing course this summer in order to begin finishing out my degree, and one of the exercises we were given in class was to write about a situation using vivid, concrete language and sensory details without actually stating what the situation was about. We were given specific prompts within that general exercise and the one I chose went something like this: a man just murdered his true love and is now observing a lake. Describe the lake without telling of the murder or the body. (Well, this is poorly worded on my part because I can’t remember what the exact prompt was, but the challenge was not to mention the murder outright or the body as a “dead body.” The body can be described as long as it is not stated outright that s/he is dead. Sorry if that doesn’t make any sense…)

Anyway, this is what I came up with:

Tic-tic-plume. Tic-tic-tic-plume.

The skipping rocks dive under the water, upsetting the thick layers of fleshy moss as they sink past. He fondles a stone between his fingers and some of the cruor brushes onto the slick gray surface. Except for the ripples left in the wake of the stones, the lake does not move. Nothing breathes. Not even the wind exhales.

The rock, now blemished, turns over in his palm and he squeezes it, embedding it into his fist. Skin stretches white over his knuckles. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones—’ the singsong reverberates through the trees, leaves shivering. He coughs a laugh, digging a nail into the crusted red on his sleeve. Chips of dirt flake off with the blood. He is tempted to remove the jacket—faded tweed and threadbare edges—to fill the pockets with rocks and sink it into the depths.

Sticks and stones. Sticks and stones. Broken bones.

His fist tightens. The muscles in his jaw contract. He grinds his teeth.

Beside him the woman lays sprawled, lovely, over a sheer piece of table linen. The fingers of her right hand brush the stem of a rose-colored glass of Cabernet Sauvignon next to which lies an assortment of cheeses. Perhaps on a nicer day the spread would appear colorful, smelling of age and a hint of higher class. Today it is gray and odorless.

The woman’s eyelids, thin and veiny and nearly translucent, shield her irises and dilated pupils. He can almost remember their color. Was it blue, delicate like forget-me-nots, or the unfeeling tint of the gray-green lake?

With a flick of his wrist he tosses the rock into the shallows, listening for the plunk. He imagines it settling into the suctioning mud of the lakebed, camouflaged. He steels his eyes toward the woman. Her lips, a hushed almost-pink, like they struggle to remember color, curl upward. Looking down at his sleeve of stained tweed, he sighs and meets her smile.


It’s short, but I thought this was a cool and challenging exercise and I wanted to share it with you 🙂



3 thoughts on “Trying to Tell a Story Without Actually Telling the Story

  1. Pingback: Flash Fiction: A Celebration at Holly Lake | The Ultimately Useless Stories of an Average Teenager

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