Toenail Fiction

The most memorable writing exercise I ever did was during a creative writing course back in college. My instructor gave us the assignment of introducing a character in a story by using a body part; but we weren't allowed to use common descriptions: eyes, hair, skin, height, weight, etc. These were off limits for us; we had to use something ‘uncommon.’

I struggled on this, trying to figure out how to bring a character into a story while using a body part not easily recognized. It was one evening, while I was procrastinating my assignment, that it hit me.

I set down my nail clippers and grabbed my computer, and was able to write up my assignment. My character, Joey Baugh, opened his story with him clipping his toe nails. It was intently focused on his toenails, but it also told other things about him through this: 
  • · He was short-tempered and quick to anger. 
  • · He was easily frustrated. 
  • · He was very determined, and refused to stop once he started something. 
  • · He was quick to make decisions, and just as quick to regret them, or remember why he didn’t want to do something again. 
  • · He cared very little of what other people were thinking, or who was watching him. 
  • · His hair was too long in the front, and it drove him nuts. 
  • · He was farsighted, because the closer he leaned in, the harder it was to see what he was doing. 
  • · He had bad posture, and his back would hurt if he hunched over too long. 
  • · He used foul language a lot, tending to get worse the angrier he got. 
  • · He hated how his feet looked, but believed the rest of his looks ‘made up’ for that problem. 
  • · He didn’t like to wear socks. 
  • · He had an overabundance of body hair. 
  • · He put a lot of time into his image. 

So this is my challenge to you, like it was for me: write a character introduction using a body part not normally used to describe a person. Intensely focus on this body part when writing the scene.

Examples of body parts are:
  • · Elbows
  • · Buttocks
  • · Chin
  • · Nose
  • · Eyebrows
  • · Ears
  • · Cheeks
  • · Stomach
  • · Genitals
  • · Fingers
  • · Toes
  • · Nails
  • · Knees
  • · Ankles
  • · Feet
  • · Hands

What will you write about?

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