Listen to the silence

If you worked through the other notes on creative writing, you have already seen my most successful photograph. “Successful” in terms of the variety of interesting ideas it has inspired people to put on paper.

There is also a “most successful painting”, but I cannot reproduce it here for copyright reasons. I’ll tell you something about it, and then give you a link to click. It will take you straight to the site of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, USA, where you will see one of the better reproductions of this painting on the Web.

Early Sunday Morning. 1939. Artist: Edward Hopper.

The painting depicts a row of ordinary old shops in an ordinary old street. The time, as suggested by the title, is early morning. There are no pedestrians, no cars, and no shopkeepers. There is silence. There are two clues that let you know the street is somewhere in the USA. However, it could be in almost any country. When I’ve shown it to students, and
asked them to use their imagination, they have written all kinds of stories: adventure, murder, humour, science fiction, human relations, romance, the lot! That’s the effect this “empty” street has on you.

When you look at the picture:
— Study the colours, the light, and the shadows.
— Think about the doors and windows of the shops.
— Observe the upstairs windows, the blinds, and the curtains.

Make a note of suitable words, phrases and ideas to express:
— The early morning atmosphere.
— The sort of mood the picture seems to evoke in your mind.
— The way a street like this changes over a 24-hour period.
— What happened yesterday? What will happen today? Is anything happening now?
— The shopkeepers are probably asleep. Who are they? What sort of people are they? What are their lives like? Do they have names?
— If someone is not asleep, why is that so?

While you are doing this, ideas will start building up in your mind for a story. A short story plot must have characters (or at least one character) and you will be in the process of creating those characters.

The language you use will depend on the mood you detect. The vocabulary will depend on the characters who come to life in your mind. This will become a challenging exercise in putting your ideas into words.

OK, now here is the link. Click on it, study the picture, and get to work, first with your notes and then with your written expression.

If, for some reason, the link doesn't work, use your search engine to find another reproduction of the painting. There are lots of them on the Net. You might also like to search for other paintings by Edward Hopper.

There are other pictures to stimulate and challenge your creativity:

Two mystery photos

Peculiar Pictures

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