Paint the scene (with words!)

Elephant in the Room.

Ah, writing. Sometimes it feels like you tugging on a tiny little tail . . . only to discover that on the other end of that tail is an enormous beast.

Has that ever happened to you?

Well, yesterday I posted some of the poems written by my students at the writing camp I was leading in Seoul, Korea, for CWC. Today I thought I would publish the results of our “Paint a Scene” activity.

I LOVE this activity. It’s one of those that can grab you and lead you down a road and the, next thing you know, your engrossed in a much bigger piece.  This activity begins with each participant reaching into a bag to choose a slip of paper with a colour written on it. They you write a short descriptive paragraph, focusing on the chosen colour. The goal is to bring as much of that colour into the paragraph as possible. HOWEVER, you can only use the actual colour word once. And, of course, you have to do this all within about fifteen minutes.

It’s a challenge, but I think my students did a marvelous job, as you can see by the below tales. These are after they had a chance to do a round of edits, so they aren’t quite as raw as the first drafts. However, all of their central ideas came out in that first fifteen minutes. After that, they just had to “tame the beast,” as it were . . .

* * *

FEELING BLUE
By Angela Cho

One day, blue took over the world. The ground and the sky were the same color as if a young child had poured paint all over his paper. The ocean’s harsh waves nosily smashed the stones. Above it were seagulls and jays making their journey across the empty sky. Not even a speck of cloud was to be seen. Marina, dressed in turquoise T-shirt, short jeans, and necklace made of seashells walked along the shore, being greeted by the dolphins, whales, and all sorts of water creatures. Her sapphire eyes sparkled under the burning sun, which presented freshness to other people. She soon arrived at her village, where all her friends and family remained. In the tall building, she lived on the highest floor, where the ocean and the sky could be seen with just one glance. Like the sea, the world didn’t seem to have an end to it.

* * *

THE SWEET SHOP
By Catherine Lee

Filly peered past the door, watching customers come and go in the gigantic candy store. A dark-haired woman walked out, passing Filly by while handing a little boy—probably her son—a lollipop. The man with odd magenta hair, who had also passed her and entered the store some minutes ago, had a strange taste for candy, she noted. He was gesturing to a jar of scorpion and cricket lollipops, especially beaming with glee when he pointed to coral-colored ones. She had never seen anyone who actually bought them. The man walked out with the bright-colored package and eyed Filly strangely. Filly froze, took a deep breath, and fingered her pink sunglasses, just in case they fell off. It might look a little peculiar, wearing pink sunglasses in winter. But what could she do? Filly was having the aftereffects of an eye infection; her eyes were still puffy red from it, and she didn’t want to look weird.

Unfortunately, she did.

Filly took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and walked into the sweet shop, hoping that she wouldn’t look too out of place. Walking to the farthest place from the door, she hoped to find something that no one would’ve bought before. She stopped, turning the curb she had memorized by sight. She opened her eyes, and gasped.

Everything, all the walls and the ceiling, let alone the sweets, were one color. The bright scarlet walls were covered with blooming carnation and roses. She could even see blossoms of the cosmos flower so real that Filly leaned over to touch them. Everywhere in the space were sweets, all of them the color of strawberries, neatly assorted into the containers, all the covers so bright. Cotton candy, peach-flavored bubble gums, rose-scented chocolate, eyeball candies with light red whites—Filly thought that all kinds of salmon-colored candies were made to fit this room.

* * *
BLANK
Chloe Kim

Memories once splattered with vibrant colors are now overwhelming me to the point where they are now becoming ever more white. The once thoroughly-filled pages of my brain are now left with battered plain sheets; ones enough to say they’ve been used, but entirely puzzling for not a single word is written on them. And as I endeavor to re-write those sentences, everything around me betrays and hinders me from doing so. Endless walls surrounding and invading me are filled with nothing but old nail marks, scratched with pain. I can feel the sweat and cold tears of those who wanted to escape. The long, colorless faces who visit me with newly-washed gowns make me want to forget, rather than remember. The barren window are only painted with pale clouds, and questions are flooding me. The calmness, so quiet that it is deafening, fills me with chaos. Flakes of snow slowly fall down from the ceiling and crash into my head. They all crowd around me, closing in, until I suffocate to my death.

* * *

YELLOW
By Hannah Lee

I was feeling dizzy and the sky seemed yellow. As I swished side-to-side, sunlight shone down on me, burning my eyes. Falling down, my short hair swayed like dried grass. A butterfly flew by my side, its delicate wings dancing along with the wind.

Grasping the warm dirt beneath my hands, I felt the heat of the sun on my back.

“Daisy!” I heard somebody call my name. I tried to respond, but was feeling too faint to do so. I closed my eyes, the light of the sizzling sun warming my eyelids.

* * *

BROWN
By Raphael Cho

I am walking in a forest, where brown branches wave their hands, trying to greet me. I, Bron, set near the tree and think how its color matches my hair. Also, I’m thinking about my friend in one of the Ivy League Universities starting with B. Imagining cutting an enormous tree and making furniture and building a house with my dad. In the middle of the work, he always says “Your eye color looks same as your hair.” I can see a squirrel squeaking and jumping all around the tree like he is being chased by a gigantic grizzly bear. I set up and walk home along a wooded road.

* * *

SEEING RED
By Yeonjae Song

“Count to ten and you’ll be fine Scarlett,” I say quietly as looked into her tired bloodshot eyes.

“One . . . Two . . . Three.” And she falls asleep.

“Everyone, get your butts moving. Where’s the energy that we need for this?” I commanded the other doctors around the operating table.

I stop breathing and I can see hot sparks leaping in front of my eyes when blood starts to pour out of Scarlett’s arm. Being a surgeon, doesn’t mean I can’t be afraid of blood.

“Are you okay, Mr. Rouger? You look a little flushed,” asks one of the nurses.

Before I can even answer, another doctor practically shouts in my ear,  “Mr. Rouger, the patient is loosing too much blood!”

I look at Scarlett and am alarmed to see that her cheeks are losing their rosiness and becoming pale. I point at the nurses to fetch the rubber cylinder ready for the donor blood and I focus back on Scarlett.

I am wearing brown glasses that make the blood look less horrifying, but I can’t focus on the surgery anymore. Scarlett’s arm is broken at its joint and pulled out of its sockets and she looks like a cracked doll covered in a dark gooey crimson paste.

I grab two pieces of her broken arm bravely, and just as I do, the smell of rust and iron rushes over and clings on to my nose for dear life. The tomato lasagna I had for lunch threatens to come up and I have to breathe in deeply to calm myself down. I take off my glasses and wipe my nose with my gloves, just before I realize that the gloves w are dripping with freshly produced blood; dull slimy red, staining my blue mask and green smock.

My body goes stiff and I run out of the operation room, all the while trailing drops of dark brown blood behind me, on the squeaky clean floor.

* * *

THE WORLD AS VERTELLA SAW IT
By Yeonsoo Song

It was full of life. The rich forest emitted soothing, lush warmth. The grass beneath was tickling Vertella’s feet. Grasshoppers sang, frantic frogs hopped up and down in the air. Above them were leaves hanging onto the apples not yet ripe. Vertella was wearing a flowery dress and a grass-woven hat. Her emerald eyes twinkled with delight as she caught sight of her favorite snack inside her picnic basket: kiwi. Vertella leaned against the moss-covered tree trunk and started to knit a scarf that could contain the vibrancy of life around her.

* * *

BLACK
By Young Taek Hong

The world started to turn black. The number of thieves, robbers was increasing. There were burning buildings and ashes floated all over the place. Also, there were many crimes being committed. Whenever a person left their house, the shadows of evil fell upon their backs. The criminals shouted for freedom. Judgment was not occurring properly as if there was no rule in this world. Innocent people were the only victims of this darkness. People were crying and praying for a light to shine.

* * *

Oh, last but not least . . . here’s mine. I decided I would engage in this activity along with them (after all, sometimes it’s good to stress along with them). The only colour left in our bag was “orange.” Thankfully, this is also my favourite colour . . .

* * *

LAST COLOUR
By Lee Edward Födi

Wrapping a finger around a curl of her carrot-top hair, Dahlia cast a gaze at the spectacular evening sky. It seemed as if it was on fire, streaked with brilliant cadmium and thin ochre clouds. She trudged down the steps of the porch, its tangerine paint long since blistered away by the relentless sun. Her eyes lingered upon the long-expired copper-coloured fields as they glowed in the last of the day’s fiery light. She ambled past the row of drooping peach trees; the setting sun made their dry branches gleam like burning brands. At last she came to the river. It had dwindled to a trickle now, but what was left of it shone like a streak of lava. Maybe this is what death is, Dahlia thought. At the very end, just before it erupts into a fiery inferno, it is a beautiful vista, so deceivingly bursting and blooming with the colour of life. Orange.

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