Sunday, July 12, 2015

Writing Prompt: Writing Blind

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This prompt challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and push your creative boundaries.

In 500 words or less, write a descriptive scene in which the character can’t see. Use every other sense but sight. You must include touch, taste, smell, and sound.

Extra challenge:
Post your scene in the comments and ask readers to guess where this scene takes place—but don’t state it outright in your description (for example, if it’s in a cave, you can’t say “the cave walls were rough under my fingers.”). See how many can guess what you’re describing.

Skill tip:
This week’s prompt is designed to make us pay attention to the other senses. We often rely on sight to convey information, but the world is a rich and sense-full place.

Share in the comments!


  1. Sorry, it's a little long. A scene from a fantasy where limited telepath Jani wakes following a dinner laced with soporifics.

    Jani was surprised there was no difference between opening her eyes and closing them; wherever she was, there was no light.
    About to sit up and put her feet on the floor, everything suddenly paled into non-existence: there were no minds, anywhere! Kitsune, Nancy, Absel even, all contact gone. She screamed once, the sound muffled; it quickly died out. She rolled onto her side, curled up crying. No one came.
    Time to do some investigation. The dark was palpable; Jani felt like she should be able to cut blocks of it out, move them out of the way. Instead, she sat up on the bed, put her feet back on the cold, damp floor. A little bit away from the bed, her foot touched a rug, or some floor covering at least. She stood, but quickly fell back; the lack of visual cues was aggressively disorienting. More slowly this time, keeping a hand on the bed, she crouched, then stood.
    A few tentative steps; she had gained some confidence when her foot exploded in pain as she kicked something. Feeling about through the tears, she found a chair; she sat to determine the damage to her toes. One toenail was askew; she could taste blood on her fingertips, but nothing seemed broken; merely hurt like hell.
    She forced herself to sit quietly for a few more minutes as the pain subsided. When she could again put weight on her foot, she renewed her courage, her determination and her caution; small ginger steps in a kind of one-footed shuffle that made sure she wouldn’t slam the injured toes into anything else.
    Five steps took her to a wall. Like the bare floor, it felt like stone, damp and cool. She felt it down to the floor, up as high as she could reach. Later, she planned, she’d drag the chair over, see if the ceiling was within reach. For now, she sidled along the wall much as she and Kitsune had done the fence to the feed lot, except that there there had been the Stygian darkness, brighter than here.
    She reached a corner, but it wasn’t right, it was too flat, not a right angle. She followed the new wall to another corner, but along the next section of wall, she found the bed. This was a chance to test the floor to ceiling height; she climbed to walk along the wall on the bed. The ceiling was still out of reach; the next corner came up as the bed ended.
    Stepping off the bed very carefully, she edged along this wall, the fourth she’d counted, but it had no defining features, except perhaps it wasn’t so damp. Again, the not quite correct corner; this next wall had what seemed to be a small table which hit her above mid-thigh. Either part of the wall or firmly attached, less than the size of the bed, Jani realized the chair she’d found went with this. She felt for and found it within reach and pulled it over. Using it, she stood on the table to try for the ceiling again; still out of reach.
    In a few more minutes, she’d determined the room had five sides, all the same length as close as mattered, and about the length of the bed. There were no doors she could feel. There was something in the wall behind the table, centered on it, but too small to be a door. From the smell, Jani assumed a chamber pot stood in the corner adjacent to the table; she used it, thankful the top opened to serve as a seat.
    Investigation complete for the time being, she found her way back to the bed.

    1. Locked away in a secret room?

    2. Well, secret to her. The entrance is through the ceiling; the guy who adulterated her dinner wants to talk, to join forces with her. Not too savvy on the social graces, but he’s the king, sort of.
      Thanks for the comment, and thanks, Janice, for posting the prompt!

  2. This prompt is not only great, but couldn't have been shown to me at better time. In my current WIP, my charecter is about 2 chapters away from getting her eyes pecked out (its a retelling of the brothers grimm Cinderella, except from the step sister's point of view). I've been stressing how i'm going to use descripters when i can't use sight. I'm in a rush this morning, so i can't write the prompt right now, but i will definetly try it later today.


  3. “Ma’am? Ma’am, just stay calm! We’ll have you down in a jiffy.”

    My breathing was loud and fast in my ears. Too quick—I was on the edge of hyperventilating. Calm down, Zoe, I told myself assertively. A breeze ruffled my hair, and my fingers crept along the smooth floor, searching for comfort.

    I was sitting on something hard; my knees drawn up close enough for my nose to touch. I stretched my arms out to both sides, and I was able to touch the walls from my spot on the ground. A stronger wind came again, and when the floor rocked, I learned there was something worse than hyperventilating; being too scared to breathe.

    I could taste water on the wind current, and it smelled strongly of pine. The voice came again: “The fire department is on their way, ma’am, don’t worry your pretty li’l head!” It was a man’s voice, and he spoke in a southern accent.

    “My name is Zoe Hilton,” I whispered to myself; I didn’t share his dialect. I blinked, luxuriating in the feeling of my eyelids. I could always count on them to be there, even when my sight departed.

    I slowly, carefully stood up. My fingers clutched at the walls around me for support, and when they disappeared halfway, I just stood there, holding the wall and whispering, “My name is Zoe Hilton,” again and again until my breathing had slowed. There was another breeze, and when it blew stray strands of my hair off my face, I had the nerve to tug the corners of my mouth up in a hint of a smile.

    “ZOE,” a different voice screamed. “Oh my god, ZOE JUST STAY PUT!” It was a woman voice this time, and I recognized it as Reilly’s.

    “Reilly?” I called out hesitantly. My world swayed again. Maybe I was on a boat, I thought, though that wouldn’t explain the pine. Or why that southern man would call the fire department.

    “Yes, Zoe. It’s me, Reilly! Don’t worry; we’ll have you down in no time!” Have me down? I put the puzzle pieces together. I must be high up, stuck somewhere. Not a tree, I realized, because there was no rough bark. And not a building, because they don’t rock back and forth when the wind blows. At least, they shouldn’t rock back and forth. What else was there?

    “Reilly, where am I?” I cried out. I ran the fingers of my right hand through my hair, the left still clamped down on the wall in front of me. My hair was short, not quite reaching my shoulder. I wondered what color it was; I hadn’t been able to see anything in years.


    There wasn’t any tell-tale wind, yet my world shook again. I bit down on a scream, but the shaking didn’t stop like before.

    “Zoe, don’t be scared! Everything’s fine! We’re just bringing you down again!”

    I sank to the floor, hugging my knees close again and fighting back tears, but more relieved than I’d ever been before. My name is Zoe Hilton, and I’m not going to die today.

    1. Stuck up in a sky lift?

    2. I think I’ll go with Samantha, but two things: if it’s open to the wind, how is it also blinding dark—is she actually blind? And it reads like this has happened to her before.
      Thanks for sharing!

    3. Well, I admit it's a little unorthodox. She is actually blind, and--spoiler--she's stuck at the top of a Ferris wheel. This is the first draft; I posted immediately after writing it. Thanks for reading it!

  4. slight rule change...where am I?

    The sound returned from somewhere close. It sounded like a goat or as much like a goat as I could remember. I shivered in the cool morning air as I thought of “The Silence of the Lambs”. Was a lamb a baby goat or sheep?

    From nowhere my mind drifted back to the memory of the low moan I heard as a child coming through the wall of my room while I was reading. I had been terrified it was a ghost but being the man of the house, I finally mustered the courage to discover what it was. I was strangely disappointed to find that it was a familiar box fan vibrating against the wall in the next room.

    This sound reminded me of that experience. Now my fear was replaced by curiosity. The sound kept trying to grab my attention. I had a feeling that this sound was something familiar and again not worth my effort to know but I lazily tried. I had my strong and sweet coffee that I love, a metal yet comfortable chair and most of all, time.

    It was entertaining to compare this experience to the ghost-fan. My adult memory had so many more experiences than I had as a child. I supposed I had discovered rational explanations for so many past mysteries that I had become jaded and scientific. There was something wonderful about that childhood innocence and fear.

    What the hell was that sound? I must focus. I thought of goats romping in the wild. Focus! But since I cannot focus well on one thing, two tasks were well beyond me. Then, oh my God! I burned my mouth on an absently guzzled sip of coffee. I felt like spitting it out in desperation but I knew a girl was sitting at the table behind me. I had heard her chatting on her phone as she sat down and I could smell her perfume. I forced the sip down and there was that sound again.

    While the sound bleated, the door behind me opened and then it hit me in in a flash of embarrassment and disappointment. It was some kind of grinder or blender I had never heard before. The sound had been muffled as it came through the glass. Then the rationalizations flooded in, I had never been here before, I had just moved to this neighborhood, I am not a morning person, nothing worked.

    My confidence shattered, I could not even turn to say hello to the girl behind me. I just got up and walked away licking my burned lips and wounded pride, still smelling that wonderful perfume. Damn goat-blender!

  5. Fun! Can anyone guess the location?

    Joe clasped my elbow and pulled me along. I jogged in order to keep the pace. At least the ground was shock absorbent, though unlevel due to a few brittle spots. *Nothing too rough. I can handle this.* Despite the pep talk, ice shot through my veins. The wind pushed from behind with a heavy hand, setting off inner alarm bells. I was a train wreck about to happen. “Where are we going?”

    “You’ll see.”


    With my free arm, I groped for a railing, tree, or anything that would offer familiarity. I clutched nothing but air. It hung thick, and I sensed an almost…electric vibe. The wind howled and snatched at my clothes. It had turned as violent as a tiger cub playing with a mouse. “Please, can’t we slow down?” He didn’t answer. He probably couldn’t hear me.

    Insects pelted my face and bare arms. Wait, not insects. This was finer—tiny needles pricking the skin. I hugged my arms in front of me and bent my head down.

    “Look out!” His words came from far away, distorted by the constant howling. He jerked me left. I slammed against him, but he moved nary an inch. He was a rock. Solid and sure. If only I could cling to him and escape all the dangers of the unknown.

    But he moved us onward again, this time threading his arm thorough mine. “I’m sorry. I keep forgetting you’re blind. That would have been one painful step.” Hot air brushed my face as he leaned in to shout in my ear.

    I groped for something to hold onto. Anything to dispel the thought that I was a kite at the mercy of the one holding the string. “Can’t we slow down?” A strand of hair whipped into my mouth. Salty. I spit it out, but the taste never left.

    “We have only a little farther to go, before we meet up with your brother. Trust me.”

    Trust? My life worked on trust, but would it be ill placed with Joe? He almost let me step on…on something bad. He said he knew where my brother was, but maybe he lied. He could lead me into something worse than the darkness I lived in. I gravitated away from him, until water sprayed against my legs. What the-?

    He tugged me closer to his side. Heat radiated from his body, a welcome contrast to the cold seeping through my jeans. I gripped Joe’s hand with both of my own.

    For now, I’d have to go on trust.

    1. Evokes a beach to me, with wind picking up sand and spray.

    2. You got it! :)

  6. Cool, prompt. I just banged this out, so exucse the crappiness of it.

    I blink my eyes open. Complete darkness. There is no light. The air is hot, stuffy. Thick with the stink of me.

    Where am I?

    My head hurts. Boy, does my head hurt. It throbs. The pain moves from the top of my skull down my neck and settles between my shoulder blades.

    I sit up. My right knee knocks into something.

    I take my hands and scratch around in the darkness. My fingertips brush something that feels like wood? I slide my palm across its surface. For sure, it’s wood, I can feel the grain. I pat the floor I’m sitting on. Wood. I reach up, awkwardly, into the darkness, and search for what’s above my head. I feel more wood. I stretch my legs out and my toes touch more wood.

    My heart starts beating faster. My breathing picks up.

    I touch the walls again. Wood. Wood. Wood. I’m surrounded by it. I’m enclosed it. I’m trapped in it.

    I scream.

    I bang my fists against the walls.

    “Help,” I scream, “Help.”

    I push at the wall with all my strength. It won’t move. Won’t budge.

    “Help,” I scream, “Help.”

    Sweats pours off my forehead. My body heat rises. Underneath my shirt my chest is drenched in sweat.

    I wail. Start punching the walls. With my shoulder I slam into the wall. Really lean into it. My full weight. But it doesn’t do anything. I place both feet of the wall and push with everything I have. I can feel the tendons in my whole body shiver and pulse. Nothing. It won’t budge.

    How can’t it budge? Why won’t anything budge?

    Tears pour down my face.

    “Help,” I scream, as loud as I can.

    I listen.

    Again I scream. Then listen.


    I bang the walls.

    “Help,” I scream, “Help.”

    I stop all the banging and lie back down.

    I’m sobbing, now. I just lay there, sobbing in the darkness.

    1. I wanted to think a coffin, but the size seems wrong. So…