Shifting Perspective

A writing exercise

(Based on an exercise by Maggie Anderson, which she calls “In a dark room.”)


Find a photograph and “interrogate” it by asking and answering the questions listed below. This is my favourite exercise because it challenges you to write from different perspectives and in different voices. It will take you outside of yourself which is sometimes a good thing. You can do this exercise over and over again—especially useful when you are stuck for something to write about. Ask questions of, say, family photographs. Or old postcards. Or pictures in newspapers and magazines. You can respond in poetry or prose. Write as much or as little as you like. But try to answer all the questions. Have fun.

  1. Describe the photograph
  2. Write in the voice of someone or something in the photograph
  3. Write as someone or something in the photograph addressing the photographer
  4. Write to say something to someone you know who has not seen the photograph
  5. Write about the photo as the photographer
  6. Address someone in the photograph
  7. Describe what happened just before the photo was taken
  8. Describe what happened just after the photo was taken
  9. Describe what was happening outside the camera’s range just as the photo was being taken
  10. Write as if you found the photo 50 years after it was taken