Thursday, January 5, 2012

Writing Prompts About Hands

hand ~ mano by sunshinecity
hand ~ mano, a photo by sunshinecity on Flickr.
Many thanks to writer Karen J. Weyant for providing the prompts below.

Enjoy and Happy Writing to All!


Writing About Hands, Writing About People 
by Karen J. Weyant

Many people believe that the hands can tell the story of a single individual life. Janet Zandy, in her book, Hands: Physical Labor, Class and Cultural Work, explains this: “Hands speak.  In sign language they do the work of tongue and voice box.  In greeting, they iterate multiple meanings.  They augment orality.  They reveal identity – the long fingers of a pianist, the rough, stubby hands of the bricklayer.  The most advanced technology cannot completely eliminate the daily tasks performed by hands.”

Thus, writing about a person’s hands can be an important step towards writing about a person.
Writing about other people in clear concrete terms (without falling into abstract words such as kind, nice, angry, etc...) is a difficult task.  One way of entering this task is to start with the hands.  Using these two questions, see if you can tell the story of a single life:

1.         Think of a person you know well, and then imagine his or her hands.  What do they look like?  Consider the fingernails, the knuckles, the wrists, the palms, even the veins.  Are there scars?  You can even consider connecting palmistry, or the art of palm reading, into your work.

2.         Imagine these hands actually doing something. What stories are behind these hands?  Are there jobs?  Accidents?  Livelihoods?  How can the actions be depicted to tell a story?

In the past, my students  have told fascinating stories of grandfathers and their farms, mothers teaching piano lessons, fathers and brothers working on their pickup trucks.  Both of these questions may lead you to write a poem, a story, or even a personal essay!  Good luck!

Karen J. Weyant’s work can be seen in 5 AM, Barn Owl Review, Cave Wall, Copper Nickel, Harpur Palate, River Styx and The Tusculum Review. Her chapbook, Wearing Heels in the Rust Belt, won Main Street Rag’s 2011 chapbook contest and will be published in 2012. She lives in Warren, Pennsylvania, but crosses the New York state border to teach at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York.


  1. Love this idea...I have tackled it.

  2. I'm so glad you liked Karen's prompt, Delores. Thanks for the comment.


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