Find a Muse in the Masters

Write a new piece using Nighthawks by Edward Hopper as your inspiration.

The Nighthawks by Edward Hopper 1942: Public Domain

In today’s writing challenge, you’ll choose a scenario (or invent your own) and write a poem, a short story, a vignette, a scene, or flash fiction based on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942. Public Domain

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, 1942. Public Domain

Perhaps the Hopper painting is not your style? Check out The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Louvre, the Art Institute of Chicago, or The Web Gallery of Art for some visual inspriation. If you use a painting, be sure to credit the source and copyright in your piece.

The painting’s four inhabitants: the soda jerk seemingly caught mid-task while talking to the man on the right. The woman in red. The mysterious man with his back to the viewer. Dressy, 40s clothing, replete with fedoras. The evocative darkness and light in the painting — all this screams mystery to me. They could just be grabbing a milkshake. But nah….there’s got to be a lot more to it than that. That’s where you come in. Pick a scenario below or invent your own to create a new piece for this challenge:

  • Blank slate: choose one of the painting’s four subjects and write a new piece from their point of view. Give us their backstory: where have they come from? What brought them to the restaurant so late at night, on this particular day?
  • The love triangle: The woman in red is dating the man she’s seated next to, but she’s secretly in love with the man with his back to us. Tell us a story from her perspective.
  • The sting: The soda jerk is a cover for a criminal mastermind. The man with his back to us is a G-Man about to make his arrest. Create a character sketch of the soda jerk, complete with the defining moment in his life that lead him to his secret life of crime.
  • Gender switch: All the men in this painting have just been magically transformed into women. The woman is now a man. What sort of story can you tell now?
  • Dialogue: Imagine a conversation between the four subjects of this painting. What are they talking about on this night in 1942? What sort of language do they use: formal? Slang?

Above all else — have fun with the challenge. Looking forward to reading what you write.

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  1. Hey, guys, please don’t think I’m trying to be part of the editing police, but did you notice that your main link to the picture has a big typo? I’ve missed things like that so often in my work, and I always appreciate it if someone catches it and lets me know. (Of course, you might have had some special reason for intentionally changing the name of the picture, and if so, just forgive me for interfering.)

    I do love this picture, and I know I’m going to have to write a story about it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Sandra,

      It takes a village to maintain a good publication. We definitely appreciate it when readers spot and point out errors.

      but did you notice that your main link to the picture has a big typo?

      Did you mean the missing “the” in the URL of the image? That’s me not being precise in naming the photo when I added it to our media library. My bad! I’ll be more precise next time.


      1. No, I didn’t notice any of that. I’m referring to the main blue link to the actual post about the picture where you call the picture the Highthawks — with an ‘H’ instead of an ‘N.’

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Actually, on further investigation, we discovered that the name of the painting is simply Nighthawks, (no “the”). So the URL was presciently correct, while my other references were incorrect. I’ve updated the challenge to reflect the correct name of the painting.

      A tidbit of trivia:

      Starting shortly after their marriage in 1924, Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine (Jo) kept a journal in which he would, using a pencil, make a sketch-drawing of each of his paintings, along with a precise description of certain technical details. Jo Hopper would then add additional information about the theme of the painting.

      A review of the page on which Nighthawks is entered shows (in Edward Hopper’s handwriting) that the intended name of the work was actually Night Hawks and that the painting was completed on January 21, 1942.


      Liked by 1 person

    1. You can leave a link to your response here, or if you create a pingback, your response will show on the list below the challenge. Pingback instructions, as well as code you can copy and paste, are are the very bottom of the article, past the invitation to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You can download a copy to your computer locally (right click and do a “save as,”) and then upload the image to your media library to use in your posts if you wish.

      The image is in the public domain so a credit to the artist is all that’s needed.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I agreed to meet Jake at Phillies. I never liked the place. Still don’t. It’s late, and I want to get home and get out of these damn shoes. I’m waiting for my tea. I look at him and nod. Get on with it, I think to myself.

    He turns to me, lips pressed in a smile, but it isn’t in his eyes.
    “I need something from you, Gale, and you’re not going to like it.”

    Well, shit, this isn’t how I planned to end my night.

    “Tell me quick. I’m desperate for my bed.” He began to recite the story.

    Liked by 1 person

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