Poetry Tryouts: Eat

19 Nov

8:12 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Jefferson Airplane singing White Rabbit

Hello, all. I hope your autumns [or springs] are developing nicely. For those who live in the mid-northern states, I hope you and yours were not around the late season tornadoes.  Weather, as an element, is used in fiction as a structural device, both for continuity and, often, to reflect or parallel what is happening to the protagonist. The way someone eats tells us more about a person than almost any other action.Hence, you will find both as part of the patterning in the following exercise.

Poets: Write a poem where your speaker is eating and describing the weather. Allow us to see that the way she eats and the weather somehow parallel something on her mind. You may also choose to do this with a third person point of view, in which case the speaker describes a character eating and mentions the weather outside. The speaker may, or may not, know what is on the character’s mind, but should give us a sense of something.

NaNoWriMo-ers: This exercise shows how much of a story you can tell by stringing out a sequence of events in a repeating pattern. There are two parts to this pattern. One part is the meal; in each step, you will describe people eating a meal. The other part is the weather outside and the person’s physical, or mental, health. Perhaps these two are related –inner and outer weather– perhaps.

You are writing parts of a story, so don’t fall into the trap of listing details, or of telling us by telling us. Tell us by showing through actions and sensory details.

The best way for this exercise to work is to use the novel you are working on now and write these steps for it. Quantity is the goal for each step. Just keep writing. You can always cut and edit later on.

Be sure to answer all the little questions in each of the following five steps–although not necessarily in the order they are asked… feel free to add any aspects.

Select one of your favourite characters, or create a new one — even, choose someone you have been wanting to turn into a character, but the exercise works better with a character you know well, or a character you’re not sure about but want to develop.

Choose a starting year. Note that the dates in the five steps, run from September of one year through July of the next. Keep that in mind.

1. It’s Wednesday morning, 12 September, ____ (of whatever year fits your character). Your character is having breakfast alone. Where is s/he? What is s/he eating? What is the weather like outside? How is your character’s health? Expand on this breakfast.

2. It’s Friday noon, 19 December of the same year, and your character is having lunch with someone. Where are they? What are they eating? What is the weather like outside? And how is your character’s health? Expand on this lunch.

3. It’s Saturday night, 28 March of the following year, and your character is having dinner, alone. Where is s/he? What is s/he eating? What is the weather like outside? And, of course, how is your character’s health? Expand on this dinner.

4. It’s Monday, 11 July, later in the same year, and your character is having breakfast. This time s/he is with two people. What are they eating, doing, talking about? What is the weather like? And how is your character’s health? Expand on this breakfast.

5. It’s Tuesday morning, 12 July — just the next day — and your character is having breakfast alone. Where is s/he? What is s/he eating? What is the weather like outside? How is your character’s health? Expand on this breakfast.

Continuity is vital both for holding a story together and to make a reader feel they are reading a narrative written by someone who will not drop a string.

I shall see you Thursday for Part 2, Narrative Structure; Friday for the prompts roundup; and next Tuesday for an image prompt.

Happy writing, all.


Posted by on 19/11/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing


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22 responses to “Poetry Tryouts: Eat

  1. barbara_y

    19/11/2013 at 9:34 am

    Got a major creepy chill from seeing this prompt. Red sky morning, and I just finished an off-prompt/Joseph prompt world-turned-upside-down sonnet with weather –and food.½/

    • margo roby

      19/11/2013 at 11:12 am

      Of course you did. Cue music: Jaws theme…

      I’ll read when I return from getting my hair cut.

  2. Hannah Gosselin

    19/11/2013 at 10:23 am

    Okay…confession: I only read the first paragraph of your post, Margo, before I ran off inspired. So I decided to write first and now I’ll see what you probably really meant for us! 😉

    Thank you, you brought up something that has resided richly in my memory for years. 🙂

    • margo roby

      19/11/2013 at 11:11 am

      Well, I’m excited! And, here I have to go off and get my hair cut, which means I have to wait to read it. Nuts! 😉

      • Hannah Gosselin

        19/11/2013 at 11:23 am

        Oh raisins!!

        That’s alright and here I was thinking, “look at me, all early for Margo’s tryout, (for once)!!”

        Have a good haircut!

    • Hannah Gosselin

      19/11/2013 at 11:30 am

      After reading the rest of this post it occurs to me that my lil’ note after my poem could be expanded by this exercise.

      It’s really interesting idea to encourage continuity within a longer work.


  3. Carol Carlisle

    19/11/2013 at 11:56 am

    Boy-howdy, this is like walking and chewing gum. Let’s see…
    She sits at her computer wrapped in a warm robe sipping the last of her first cup of tea. Warm sun hits the back of her neck. Turning she looks out the window, disappointed to see only blue. “When will the much needed rain come?” she taps out to her blog friends around the world.

  4. Carol Carlisle

    19/11/2013 at 1:01 pm

    I did it! Where to put commas and periods on something like this gave me a head ache 😉 Great timely prompt once I let go and wrote.

    • margo roby

      19/11/2013 at 4:37 pm


      I love the blessing of marmalade!

  5. Misky

    19/11/2013 at 2:26 pm

    Hair cut? You only had one hair cut?

    Here’s mine.

    • margo roby

      19/11/2013 at 4:34 pm

      Smart mouth 😀 Alright, I’m back from having many hairs cut!

  6. barbara_y

    20/11/2013 at 4:37 pm

    Now I know this ain’t hardly what you had in mind, but it come over me and warn’t nothing but to go along.

    • margo roby

      21/11/2013 at 7:16 am

      Chuckle. I know how that goes. I love when a poem hijacks me.

  7. markwindham

    21/11/2013 at 10:37 pm

    well, there is food, though no act of eating…and weather…not sure how closely they are related until the end…but prompt has produced poem. Success.

    • margo roby

      22/11/2013 at 7:42 am

      Success, indeed! The subtlety of the connection works well.


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