This prompt is just a creative exercise in detail:
Like fiction, good nonfiction narratives are often driven by description of place. Think of a place that you know well — your kitchen, your office, or a spot you often visit — and, from memory, write a passage that describes that place. Focus on the physical characteristics of the space, leaving out any emotion that may be connected to it, and be as descriptive and detailed as possible. The next time you’re there, read your description and see how accurately your memory served you. Take note of the details you may have missed.
So, welcome to my living room! (And I swear, this was done totally by memory, written during my lunch hour at work.)
A Space at Home
When you enter the apartment, the door opens to our living room. To the immediate left, along the wall, is a red sofa — two cushions, rounded arms — with two red and grey flowered pillows, one at each end. A tall black lamp with an upturned shade stands at the right end of the sofa.
A dark wood, “espresso” bookcase is beyond the lamp, facing the sofa. A stone Buddha head graces the top. The case has three shelves, primarily filled with dictionaries and nonfiction book. Two old moving film cameras, dated around late fifties, sit in front of the books, one on the top shelf, one on the bottom. In the center of the middle shelf is a small, round, dark brown basket with a hinged lid.
On the floor next to the bookcase is a pair of bright green and blue running shoes, a pair of dark blue 5 lb dumbbells, and a pair of grey 10 lb dumbbells. Here, the wall recesses a little, and in the recess is another wooden espresso bookcase (four shelves this time), a chrome CPU unit, a black glass and chrome TV stand, and third wooden espresso bookcase (also four shelves).
The first bookcase is filled with novels of various sizes. The bottom shelf is all hardcovers. On one of the shelves, two 2 lb hand weights rest. On top of the CPU unit is a wireless headphone stand. Next to it, on the TV stand, a 50″ black flat screen TV. To the TV’s left, a little Roku box. To the right, the TV and Roku remotes. Two shelves are under the TV, one with black DVD player and black Wii unit, as well as a Wii remote holder and two large black binders (one for music CDs and the other for DVDs, both sorted alphabetically); on the bottom shelf, DVD box sets, including the complete West Wing. On the next bookcase, also filled with novels, also with hardcovers on the bottom shelf. The top shelf has a box of tissues in front of the books.
Turning the corner there is a long space of blank wall, and a fourth bookcase, with three shelves, is at the other end of the wall. On top, an Asian tea set with four square “cups” and a square teapot, and two empty candle holders. On the three shelves below, more books, but more haphazard than the others. Some are upright, some stacked horizontally. On the second shelf, a white hinged box with a black Asian symbol on top sits.
Perpendicular to the bookcase, there is a cream-colored recliner with half-circle espresso arms and a sunburst patterned pillow.
The floor is light wood, and covered with a large rug patterned with a series of rectangles (2″ by 4″-ish), in various colors — red, grey, brown, yellow, cream.
The walls are white. Right by the door, over the sofa, is a hook with a grey fedora; a red, yellow, orange, and black framed painting; a framed black-and-white photograph of a cat peeking out of a box; and a framed picture of a black cat statue on papyrus.
On the wall above the fourth bookcase, there is a framed photo of a close-up of a young woman wearing a black sweater, smiling at the camera; and a smaller framed photo of two people in a medium close-up, a man wearing a suit and glasses, the same woman with her hair up and wearing something with spaghetti straps, heads close, smiling.
After I got home, I checked my work — I missed a couple knickknacks, was off with the colors of the rug a little, missed a framed print of Starry Night, and a digital antenna sitting on top of the third bookcase.
Not too shabby…