The Mirror: a writing exercise

Cardigan Dawn

Cardigan Dawn – copyright 2011 – Paul Vreeland

Early in her novel While I Was Gone, Sue Miller has her protagonist Jo Becker roam through her empty house. That short journey is described, and then,

I stood for a long time in front of the mirror. Flesh, indeed. From time to time Daniel felt moved to say to me, “God, you’re a beautiful woman,” but this was kindness, or love. I examined myself objectively, clinically now. I saw a nice-looking middle-aged person, someone you wouldn’t look at twice if you passed her on the street. And I’d never been beautiful, in fact. I’d been attractive, tall and blond and strong-looking. I’d had a notable kind of energy, and people—men—were drawn to it.

Now, though, when my face was in repose, I looked tired. The downcurving lines at the corners of my mouth made me seem judgmental and stern, even a little pissed off. Sometimes my receptionist, Beattie, a woman I’d known and loved for twenty years, would ask me—out of the blue, from my perspective—“What’s wrong?” and I’d realize my face had fallen into those lines again. “Nothing,” I’d say. And then consciously try to open my face, to make it pleasant. To make it, I suppose, younger. ~ Sue Miller, While I Was Gone

Exercise: Put yourself or another person, real or fictional–perhaps one of your characters–in front of a mirror. Write for 15 to 20 minutes describing what you, he, or she sees.


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