Let’s Play a Game

No, I’m not talking about Global Thermonuclear War.  (Geek points and ether-cookies to those who get the reference!)

Last week, we took advantage of our sons’ extra week of vacation and the killer winter rates and snuck in a post-holidays holiday in Santa Cruz, spending five unseasonably warm (even for that area) days on the beach. We shared a rental house with some friends, and on the first night, everyone crowded the deck to watch the dramatic sunset pictured above. My husband asked me, “So, how would you describe this?”

My response: “A dozen different ways.”

It sounds like a coy response, with a smattering of smartass mixed in, and it was partly that. But it was also true. Depending on the tone and nature of the story and the mood of my protagonist, that sunset could be seen – and described – in several different ways. Plot could factor in, too. What’s happening here? A romantic encounter? Some sort of dire warning from above? A moment of contemplation?

Description is a powerful thing. Too much of it and your writing becomes bogged down, leaving your readers bored or snoring; not enough of it and readers aren’t as pulled in – as invested – in your world or your characters’ experiences as they might otherwise be.

It’s like a sword. You can hone it and wield it like a master, or you can swing it in wild choppy motions and end up cutting off your foot. As writers, we have tools for painting word pictures – adjectives and adverbs, metaphors, similes, the occasional analogy. We can come at description directly, setting the scene, or we can come at it from the side, filtering it through the emotional responses of our protagonist(s). However we choose to approach it, we should do it with grace. Like good swordsmanship, this requires practice. But it doesn’t have to be dull. We’re creative folks, and words were made to be played with.

So, here’s the game:

Describe the sunset. You don’t have to be a writer to play, anyone can chime in. The photo credits are mine, the word credits are yours. Feel free to use the description or the imagery inspired by the picture in your own work, now or whenever.

Format is open, too. Poetry, prose, a list of descriptors. If you’re a screenplay aficionado, you might begin with:


Take it away folks. Let’s see what you’ve got!!


30 responses to “Let’s Play a Game

  1. It’s all about envy, Saeed thought, as he looked at the photograph that had shown up in his inbox. Those brilliant reds and oranges – sailor’s delight – capturing the warmth of the next day. The long, lazy drift of the beach, the trees promising shelter’s against the heat of the sun. Hell, seeing it just pissed him off.

    Lisa = mean girl!


  2. Monday morning games? I don’t know… What the Hey!

    “Hector stood at the waters edge.

    A scarlet blaze spread across the horizon as the sea extinguished the day.

    He watched the sun sink into the ocean, then jacked a shell into the chamber of the 9mm in his hand. Turned and walked toward the beach house.”


  3. So many dead, so many dying and the ramparts still burning—the crimson plane so like the approach of night.

  4. Oops. Shoulda been ‘plain.’

    • Welcome to my world, the world of “the spelling-challenged” 😉

      Great image.

      I guess Monday morning games are okay.

      • Sure they are, Wally. It’s a great way to tease your brain into action.

        Good one, Raymond! I love how everyone is pulling a different inspirational vibe from the photo. It’s like I’m hanging with a bunch of writers or something. 😉


      • Actually, I was right the first time, but I’m short on sleep. Doesn’t help the editing process, but it’s great for free association. Two entirely different mind sets for two entirely different processes.

  5. “I’ve missed the sunsets most of all. Tell me what it looks like?”

    He was surprised by the wistfulness of her voice. It was the first time he’d ever heard her admit what the loss of her sight had cost her. Theirs was a temporary truce and it was easy for him to give in just this once.

    “It looks like the sky is on fire. Stained crimson and gold. Not the angry destructive flames of a forest fire, but the farewell of a pyre. The night bidding the day farewell. The ocean is so dark it looks black.” He linked his fingers through hers, trying to ward off some of the chill. “A mirror the setting sun spills out onto, rolling straight at us. Except everything tilts and it rolls off the edge of the world.”

    “That’s exactly how you make me feel,” she murmured. “Everything tilts and I can’t find my footing. I’m terrified I’m going to roll right off.”

    “I won’t let you fall.” He felt like a fool the moment the promise left his lips.

  6. Sunset

    Explosive hues
    Brighten the sky
    In reds and yellows
    Miles they fly

    Ghosty clouds hover low
    In muted shades of grey
    Hush the ocean on the floor
    Still as when I pray

    Nature’s beauty calls to me
    Witness all that I can be
    Two-tone light and darkness weave
    A fiery dance above the sea


  7. The dying sun burned fiercly red as it strove to keep the sky aglow for a few minutes longer. Shadows had already clawed their way across the sandy ground and wrapped themselves with suffocating bindings around the trees and other shrubs.
    “Sooon” they whispered to the world. “Soon, it will be night and our time…”
    and in the dark, mankind pulled just a little closer to one another, dreading the inevitable decay of light.

    and, by the way, as no one has stepped up to grab those geek points and ether cookies: “WAR GAMES” with a very young Mathew Broderick. Do I win?

  8. Nicely done… made the hir on the back of my neck stand up.

    Raymond’s right, we need to hear more from you, Chris.


  9. Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!

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