Writing Challenge: the Devil is in the Details

Your challenge this week is to practice your powers of observation. Take any person, place, or event, and write three paragraphs describing your subject in great detail.

Find the challenge here.

I push open the door of the Italian bar and a wave of chatter and babble engulfs me. Customers chat loudly, ribbing each other and laughing deeply. The TV blares the usual Berlusconi propaganda in it’s corner up on the wall while a few  elderly patrons stare fixedly, drinking in the drivel.

The smell of fresh, Italian blend wafts its way into my nose, soaking into me, lifting my early morning spirits. I shoulder my way to the counter and place my order – “the usual” – a privileged code only regulars can use. The bartender is sweating, flinging saucers onto the counter, thumping the coffee dispenser and fingering the switch to allow the dark, creamy liquid to fill the waiting cup. Then it’s placed on the saucer and on to the next one.

Armed with my cappuccino and croissant, I find myself an empty table, start reading the paper. I look up and catch the eye of a middle-aged man. He looks guiltily away. I watch him more closely. He is painfully thin with greying hair. His jeans are dirty. They are creased, as if he has slept in them. His face is lined and sunburnt. He has wrinkles on his wrinkles and the skin has a leathery texture. He talks to people and smiles but his eyes remain cold and distant. I realise that he is watching me furtively in the mirror. He has been watching me for days.


7 thoughts on “Writing Challenge: the Devil is in the Details

  1. Thanks for giving me constructive criticism earlier! 🙂 Just wanted to return a favour.

    At the start, the use of “it’s” has been misused. I think the one you would want is “its”. This is referring to the TV in its corner up on the wall.

    With the man, it sounds a bit weird if you phrase it as “He looks guiltily away.” May I suggest switching around the “guiltily” and the “away”. Also, the way you describe his appearance sounds just a little… Like you’re doing a profile on him. I know that the main character is observing him, but how would he/she know that his skin is a leathery texture unless he/she goes up to him and touches it? It’s something that the MC can’t know unless they feel it themselves.

    Once again, thanks. This is really good though. I can see what you mean by more description.


    1. You’re right about its – slip of the finger (brain?). I take your point about guiltily and away. But I don’t agree on “leathery”. I think you can see it. Have you seen the face of a woman who has overdone the suntanning? It looks like leather. Inferred texture. Thanks for the feedback.


  2. Love this. Great descriptive words – “babble” , “flinging saucers” ( my favorite), “thumping” and then your description of the man. I can see him and imagine him watching you and what that would have felt like to me. Didn’t know about this challenge. Good to have the info.


  3. I really liked the description of “painfully thin”. I agree with 7pageslater that it does sound like you’re doing a profile on him at the end, like there’s a comfortable, beautiful amount of description, and then all of a sudden there is a ton of it. However, I like the descriptive words you used. 🙂


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