The T.S. Eliot/John Gardner Killer Exercise
This was written during one of my daily writing exercises. It goes off the T.S. Eliot/John Gardner killer exercise. T.S. Eliot called it “objective correlative”: Rendering the description of an object so that the emotional state of the character from whose point of view we receive the description is revealed WITHOUT ever telling the reader what that emotional state is or what has motivated it.
John Gardner gave us a “theme” for this exercise. “A middle-aged man is waiting at a bus stop. He has just learned that his son has died violently. Describe the setting from the man’s point of view WITHOUT telling your reader what has happened. How will the street look to this man? What are the sounds? Odors? Colors? That this man will notice? What will his clothes feel like? Write a 250-word description.”
He sat on the bench, his head bowed, hands cradling his face as his knees supported his elbows…. He sighed and looked down the street waiting for the bus to arrive. The street was filled with children and the sounds of their laughter as they were playing echoed through his ears burning deeper into his heart. He looked up briefly, a tear trickled down his withered cheek… honeysuckles… the smell brought back memories of a better time… how he wished he could go back to that place….. He turned around to look at the children happily playing in the park behind him… He smiled briefly to himself as he turned around and checked his watch. The silver on the watch band caught his eye, as he noticed it was tarnished… “No matter,” he thought to himself, it was a memory he would now hold dear. A car sped past him, the smell of oil was thick… he touched his jacket, suddenly feeling dirty… maybe it was his guilt that was causing that? He did not know; he didn’t care. He sat, waiting for the bus. Children passed by and waved to him as he sat waiting for the bus that seemed to never come. The bus finally pulled around the corner, in almost a surreal dream, he picked his hat off of the bench, putting it on his head. He stood and checked his pocket for correct change. It was time to do the hardest thing he would ever do.
Exercise by Bri K.