Writing Assignments: Write An Eye-Witness Report

by Randy Murray on September 5, 2014

Trial witnesses are remarkably unreliable. Memory and recall are imperfect and malleable and can be manipulated by questioning.

And yet, being there, seeing an event first hand, can yield powerful writing. I keep a copy of Eyewitness to History on my bookshelf and many other books like it. Having a record from someone who was there is vastly superior to second, third, and much further removed reporting and speculation. Just read the letter that Pliny (the younger) wrote to Cornelius Tacitus describing the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. He was there. He saw it. And his letter is thrilling.

You don’t have to witness literal earthshaking events to be able to bear witness. You see things every day. Little things. Things that others pass by without recognition. And your witness matters. What you see forms who you are. Writing about what you see helps to for the writer you wish to be. I alone have survived to tell you is the ultimate witness. You don’t have to wait for that to happen.

For today’s assignment write an eyewitness report of something that you have witnessed earlier in the day. Try and be clear, detailed, and objective, but do not forget to add the initial details about where you were, what you were doing, and how you came to observe the event.

Pick something simple. Waiting in line at the market while the person checking out fumbles with coupons and payment. A bicyclist weaving through traffic. An interesting pattern of clouds. Use Pliny’s example. You are there. You saw, heard, and felt an event. And you survived to tell the tale.

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