Writing Assignment: Writing About Three Objects

by Randy Murray on May 10, 2013

Writing a description of a single object is always a good exercise. If you add another thing, write about two objects, you can compare and contrast them. Add a third and you have a set and the possibilities multiply. The set is often more interesting than the objects contained in the set.

Sets go beyond mathematics. They are they ways we organize our lives. Two objects are interesting—three is a collection.  Look around you: the things that you use and value are often found in groups of at least three. My desk contains no fewer than ten manual writing implements at any one time. Observing that alone would give you a clue that I may be a writer.

Here’s my example:

Above my office bookshelf I have a selection of science fiction pulp magazines. I’ve had each carefully prepared and framed with museum-quality mounting. The entire issue is carefully preserved—not just the cover. They are also primarily Volume 1, Number 1 issues (accept for the three issues of Astounding carrying the serialization of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Double Star”).

One of my favorites is a single frame holding three small format magazines, each v.1, no.1. They are a set: Vanguard, Venture, Vortex.

Their covers are endlessly fascinating. Vanguard shows the tail of a blasting rocket in space where an unlucky astronaut has fallen into the fiery exhaust. Venture’s cover has a powerful, bare-chested caged man in the background. He appears dominated by the strong, redheaded women in the foreground. Her breasts are covered by metallic cones and she wears a sheer top. It is clear that she is in charge, but of what? Vortex displays either a giant microscope focused on a man and a women fallen upon the slide surface, or is it a miniature couple, reduced in some mysterious way?

Each cover promises a story, action, and exotic adventure. I’ve learned that most of these magazines, called, “pulps” because of the poor quality paper used in their printing, also have equally poor writing, but not all do. Within their covers the greats of the golden era learned their trade and built a powerful genre. The stories, good or bad, were wrapped in glorious, lurid covers. There’s a promise in these covers. And that’s why I display them in the room where I write, where I work.

For today’s assignment, take three like objects, even if they are very little alike, and write about them. You can spend some time, but not much, describing them. Your task with this assignment is to talk about them as a whole, a set. What does the set itself evoke? What does combining these objects unlock, allow you to think and then write about?

It shouldn’t take you long to look at your surroundings, find three like objects and begin writing about them as a single thing.


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