Friday, April 29th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Hands That Tell a Story

Pictures of HandsI got sucked into the whole Royal Wedding Thing this morning, prompted by the fact that I wanted to see Kate Middleton’s dress.

As I was watching, I got to thinking about hands.

Kate’s hands were in the focus of the camera a lot, because she was waving, of course, and then there was that wedding ring bit. I was quite surprised to see how plain they were. Like the dress and the jewels and the tiara, I expected a little more pomp.

Here’s a close up of the ring ceremony. The angle’s not great, but you can see that Kate’s got blunt nails and little polish on them if any. I had an earlier impression of her having bit them down to nubs, but I think this disproves me. Still, her nails are short and to the point, yes?

Kate Middleton's Wedding Ring

Here’s a close-up of my own hands the morning of my wedding – those talons are real, btw, no fakes for me. (I couldn’t bear to waste my time in a salon – and besides, I think typing makes them stronger.)

Kate Middleton's Wedding Ring

So, what do Kate’s hands say about her? That she can’t be bothered at all? That she’d rather spend her time doing something else? That she can’t bear to spend her time in salon?

What about the photos to the left? Old hands at the top surely evoke a story. Robot hands must make something come to mind. My favorite are those working on the engine. When I get my hands dirty, I take off my rings. Not these fellows. What does that say about them?

Here’s Your Prompt: Study the hands around you. Look at the hands of mothers and policemen and construction workers. Peer at artists’ hands and those of teachers and nurses. Look at your own hands!

Do these hands reveal the vocation or hobby of their owners or not? Does the mechanic you know carefully remove any hint of grease from his nails before he comes home from the shop? Does the artist strip all the paint off or leave it on? Whose hands are dry and cracked, old and worn, nicked and cut?

Now, write a scene or memoir or even non-fiction about a person who’s interesting feature is his hands. Describe them, and why they’re significant — but don’t keep all the description in a large single paragraph. Work in bits of description and significance between the story: show us how these hands are important without telling us all at once. Keep the tension by gradually revealing the story bit by bit.

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