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Nephilim
09-02-2004, 19:33
I thought we'd begin with the basics :) I'm sure many of you have done character sketches before, but it definately never hurts as a tool for generating new characters. For those completely unfamiliar with the concept and/or new to writing, there will be adequate instruction.

There are many different ways of starting off a character sketch. Some prefer starting by writing a stat sheet on the character. Often times this is used to introduce young writers to the idea of creating a character (often times they are familiar with a persona being presented in such a manner from their experiences with various toys, video games, and so on.) Such a basic character sketch might take on such a format:

Character Type: Sea Captain
Character Name: John McGregor
Age: 56
Gender: Male
Height: 5'11
Weight: 180 pounds
Build: Broad shoulders, slight belly, muscular for his age as a result of occupation
Hair Color: white, beard more of a salt and pepper
Defining characteristics: small half circle scar approximately 1/4 of an inch long on right temple, right pinky is absent past second digit, has infrequent but very pronounced cough.

Such a character description is very simplistic and provides the absolute bare bones. The above character sketch only tells us what the character looks like. It tells us nothing of his inner-scape, his worldview, etc. Important questions to flesh out such aspects of character development are:

What is the character's resting emotional state?
How does the world see the character?
How does the character see themself?
Do these two views match or not?
How does the conflict or peace between the character's self view, and the world's view of them impact their life?
Do they believe in God? A higher power of any kind? Luck? Fate? What religious, superstitious, or other worldly beliefs, if any... flavor their perceptions and actions?

Sometimes the best way to flesh out a character after some of these basic questions have been answered is to write a short piece focused on the character. I sometimes tell people to write their character sketches as an interaction between themselves and the character, before putting the character into any of their work... or writing a work about that character. You learn alot about a character when you dialogue with yourself.

It certainly wouldn't be fair of me give all this advice and not participate (something I have always found distasteful when it comes to teaching.) Within the next day I'll have a fleshed out mini-story with the above character present.

Nephilim
09-03-2004, 02:55
Ok here we are... I wrote something when I got home from work. You'll have to forgive any typos, its almost five am.

The sketch isn't about developing a story (although it can happen) or about achieving plot set up, climax, and resolution. The sketch is about giving your character a chance to live and breathe for a moment. In this case... I chose to dialogue myself against the character to see how the character would fair in such a manner. I could have just as easily written from the characters perspective. Honestly it was just how the mood struck me :)

-------------------------------------------------------

There was little that could make me love the subway. I missed the open spaces of my prior suburban life. Certainly you were just as much a prisoner in your car during rush hour as you were in a subway car, but the difference was insurmountable. In a complete break from reality and responsibility you could step out of your car and just walk away. Such a fancy undertaken in a subway car would lead to a painfully less than instant death. Day in, day out. A rocketman in a concrete tube.

He got on at the 36th street stop. I almost laughed out loud. The kind of laugh you might emit when you look up over your sunday paper and there is a profootball mascot standing in your front yard doing a touch down dance. A laugh that indicates to others you have just experienced the improbableness of being. The kind of laugh a transplanted suburbanite laughs when Captain Ahab stebs off his mighty boat and lands right in the middle of your L-Train subway ride. Among a mass of men in suits, women in pumps, and a scattering of identity seeking teens there he was. He took off his hat like he had just entered a tavern and sat in the last open seat beside me. I resisted every urge in my body to be a friendly ass and make a gravely "Arrrr" pirate greeting. Things are rarely as funny once escaped from the asylum of your mind.

I starred at him in the sly manner of subway riders. The ride is irregular enough in its motion that you can constantly move about in tiny ways, adjusting your position and angling your vision to see the oddities that exist only in the subway sphere. I angled, and he sat like a rock. He smelled of salt, tobacco and age. I found it hard to resist not talking. "Rough ride." It was infact a rough ride, we were going over a section of track that was likely older than I was. Watery eyes regarded me like I had just told Christ "This thistle in my sock really hurts!" It occured to me that riding a subway was not at all like riding a sea worthy ship. He fetched a pocket watch from the front of his woolen coat. Long ago it might have had a delicate etching on it, but thousands of handlings has worn it to a slightly battered finish. "How long to the Angle St. stop?" He asked matter of factly, as one accustomed to asking direct questions and recieving prompt responses. "About 10 minutes or so... where are you headed?" I broke a cardinal rule of suwbay travel. Do not ask where someone is going. Catching me off guard while I was still contemplating my subway faux pax he replied "Grandchild. Born yesterday." So much for telling him a handy shortcut to get there. He strummed his hand absentmindedly across his thigh. Rather than a perfect rythmn, the conspicious absence of his pinky tip jarred the beat. Not all the world idles their time with a 5/4 measure.

If he was looking for the Angle St. station, he was likely going to St. Luke's I mused.
"St. Luke's Hospital?" He nodded.
"There is a deli a block North of St. Luke's with really good seafood bisque."
"Fresh?" He inquired.
Fresh by whose measure?
"I suppose so, quite good at any rate."
I wondered what prompted me to talk to him in the first place. Was it that he was so out of place that I felt the need to talk to him, understanding such matters as simple as being out of the home element? He appeared unphased, although cautious, existing out of what I assumed his home element to be. The deep weathering of his face, completed by a slight half circle scar beside his eye gave way to a slight half smile.
"Friendly, no?"
I looked around "This city?"
He laughed for a moment and then coughed deeply, rough spasms in his chest. The sound was like a great sail with snapped lines.
"No, no. You."
"Not usually... but you seem a bit out of place, and curiousity got the better of me."
"Curiosity killed enough captains to make me one."
Indeed.
"Boy or girl?"
He smiled slighty again, the tough skin of his face reforming like desert fault lines. "Girl. First one."
"Going to spend some time with the family?"
"Day, maybe two."
"No more?"
"Can't afford to stay out of the salt air. Preserves me."
He pivoted his eye towards me to see if I took him seriously, or caught the lightness of his jest. I smiled.
The Angle St. station was upon us.
As the captain rose, he nodded to me and then gestured to the stem of the pipe stem sticking slightly out of my worn leather attache.
"3 blocks north of the port on Wharf St. is a tobacco shop. I've bought tobacco there for 39 years. Ask for the McGregor blend."
I nodded, and with that the subway train moved forward.

Lobotomy Boy
09-06-2004, 20:39
Nephilim,

Excellent story. I'm an editor and a writer by trade, and this is one of the better written pieces I've looked at in recent years. I've made a few edits. My notes are bracketed and in caps. "DH" are my initials. Hope this helps:

There was little that could make me love the subway. I missed the open spaces of my prior suburban life. Certainly you were just as much a prisoner in your car during rush hour as you were in a subway car, but the difference was insurmountable. [NOTE: EXCELLENT INTRODUCTORY SENTENCES. THE COMPARISON BETWEEN URBAN AND SUBURBAN LIVING PAINTS A VIVID IMAGE. BUT I BELIEVE THE FOLLOWING TWO LINES TAKE THE COMPARISON A BIT TOO FAR, PERHAPS WEAKENING IT A BIT. I WOULD CUT FROM HERE--In a complete break from reality and responsibility you could step out of your car and just walk away. Such a fancy undertaken in a subway car would lead to a painfully less than instant death.--TO HERE. DH] Day in, day out. A rocket man in a concrete tube.

He got on at the 36th street stop. I almost laughed out loud. The kind of laugh you might emit when you look up over your Sunday paper and there is a pro football mascot standing in your front yard doing a touch down dance. A laugh that indicates to others you have just experienced the improbableness of being. The kind of laugh a transplanted suburbanite laughs when Captain Ahab steps off his mighty boat and lands right in the middle of your L-Train subway ride. [NOTE: THIS SERIES OF FRAGMENTS WORKS QUITE WELL, THOUGH ONE MORE. NORMALLY I WOULD EDIT THIS OUT BECAUSE MOST WRITERS I WORK WITH COULDN'T PULL IT OFF. DH] Among a mass of men in suits, women in pumps, and a scattering of identity seeking teens there he was. He took off his hat like he had just entered a tavern and sat in the last open seat beside me. I resisted [NOTE: THE FOLLOWING PHRASE SEEMS A BIT CONTRIVED COMPARED TO THE REST OF THE PIECE. I SUGGEST REWRITING FROM HERE--every urge in my body--TO HERE. THE SENTENCE ITSELF IS FUNNY AND DESERVES BETTER. DH] to be a friendly ass and make a gravely "Arrrr" pirate greeting. Things are rarely as funny once escaped from the asylum of your mind.

I starred at him in the sly manner of subway riders. The ride is irregular enough in its motion that you can constantly move about in tiny ways, adjusting your position and angling your vision to see the oddities that exist only in the subway sphere [NOTE: HOW ABOUT "subwaysphere" AS ONE WORD, LIKE "troposphere," "stratosphere," OR "ionosphere?" DH]. I angled, and he sat like a rock. He smelled of salt, tobacco, and age. I found it hard to resist not talking. "Rough ride." It was, in fact, a rough ride; we were going over a section of track that was likely older than I was. Watery eyes regarded me like I had just told Christ "This thistle in my sock really hurts!" It occurred to me that riding a subway was not at all like riding a seaworthy ship. He fetched a slightly battered pocket watch from the front of his woolen coat. Long ago it might have had a delicate etching on it, but thousands of handlings had worn it smooth. [NOTE: COMPARE THIS SENTENCE TO YOUR ORIGINAL TO SEE MY EDITS. DH]

"How long to the Angle St. stop?" He asked matter of factly, as one accustomed to asking direct questions and receiving prompt responses.

"About 10 minutes or so... where're you headed?" I broke a cardinal rule of subway travel. Do not ask where someone is going.

Catching me off guard while I was still contemplating my subway faux pax, he replied "Grandchild. Born yesterday." So much for telling him a handy shortcut to get there. He strummed his hand absentmindedly across his thigh. Rather than a perfect rhythm, the conspicuous absence of his pinky tip jarred the beat. Not all the world idles their time with a 5/4 measure. [NOTE: EXCELLENT. DH]

If he was looking for the Angle St. station, he was likely going to St. Luke's [NOTE. I'D SKIP "I mused." IT IS A LITTLE WORDY. DH] "St. Luke's Hospital?" He nodded. "There is a deli a block North of St. Luke's with really good seafood bisque."

"Fresh?" He inquired. Fresh by whose measure? [NOTE: AGAIN, THIS IS VERY GOOD. DH]

"I suppose so, quite good at any rate." I wondered what prompted me to talk to him in the first place. Was it that he was so out of place that I felt the need to talk to him, understanding such[NOTE: IF YOU CHANGE THIS CLAUSE TO READ: "such simple matters as being..." YOU ELIMINATE THE CLUMSINESS OF USING THE PREPOSITION "as" TWICE IN THE SAME CLAUSE. DH] matters as simple as being out of the home element? He appeared unfazed, although cautious, existing[NOTE" "existing" SEEMS THE WRONG WORD HERE. DH] out of what I assumed his home element to be. The deep weathering of his face, completed by a slight half circle scar beside his eye, gave way to a slight half smile.

"Friendly, no?"

I looked around "This city?"

He laughed for a moment and then coughed deeply, rough spasms in his chest. The sound was like a great sail with snapped lines. "No, no. You."

"Not usually... but you seem a bit out of place, and curiosity got the better of me."

"Curiosity killed enough captains to make me one."

Indeed. "Boy or girl?"

He smiled slightly again, the tough skin of his face reforming like desert fault lines. "Girl. First one."

"Going to spend some time with the family?"

"Day, maybe two."

"No more?"

"Can't afford to stay out of the salt air. Preserves me."

He pivoted his eye towards me to see if I took him seriously, or caught the lightness of his jest. I smiled. The Angle St. station was upon us. As the captain rose, he nodded to me and then gestured to the stem of the pipe stem sticking slightly out of my worn leather attaché. "3 blocks north of the port on Wharf St. is a tobacco shop. I've bought tobacco there for 39 years. Ask for the McGregor blend."

I nodded, and with that the subway train moved forward.

Lobotomy Boy
09-06-2004, 21:26
Is this a forum in which we can discuss serious writing? Because serious writing often explores issues that would upset the timid and constipated and those with otherwised compromised constitutions. For example, I've been working on a character sketch about a guy who's a horrible misogynist. It's a conversation between two men returning from a hunting trip, so the language would likely send the church-going folks on the forum into convulsions of righteousness. But it can't be avoided. The character being examined is extremely crude, and to have him speak in anything but the crudest language would be inauthentic to the point of being a pointless exercise.

I hope examining serious writing is acceptable here, or else it won't be of much use to a serious writer. In case it is, I'm posting the piece on which I've been working.

Read on at your own risk. This material is definitely rated R:

Sexual Politics
Copyright 2004 Darwin Holmstrom

“I think I’m gonna nail Lisa tonight,” Ed said.

“Huh?” Victor had been concentrating on driving and hadn't been listening to his traveling companion.

“I’m gonna **** the slippery snot out of Lisa tonight.”

“That’s wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin,” Victor said, but appropriate responses had never been one of Ed’s strong suits.

“What’s wrong with getting a little tail?”

“How old is she?” Victor asked. “Seventeen?”

“She’s eighteen, and she’s gonna be nineteen this month.”

“And you’re what? Forty-seven?”

“Forty-eight. What’s wrong with that. She’s legal. Hell, if it was up to me, legal age would be ‘****.’ She got ****, she’s legal.”

“Don’t you think being damn near three times her age puts you in something of a position of authority over Lisa?”

“Hell no!” Ed replied. “You think I have any authority over that woman you’re more of a damn fool than I thought. Ain’t no one tells that ***** what to do. Hell, she tells me what to do. Ain't no man got authority over no woman. Who do you think is running the show anyway, men or women?”

“Well, men have most of the positions of power and own most everything.”

“Yeah, but women own the most valuable property on the planet--that slippery little patch between their legs. Long as they got that, they don’t need to own nothing else. Long as they got the *****, they say ‘jump,’ we say ‘how high?’” Victor tried to think up a response, but at the moment Ed sounded pretty sensible.

“You don’t think women run this show?” Ed asked. “You think that and you don’t know **** about being human. Let me ask you this: when was the last time you washed your ass and balls?”

“Last night, before we left home.”

“Why'd you wash your ass and balls?”

“It seemed like the polite thing to do?” Victor wasn’t sure of his answer and he inflected up at the end, turning his answer into a question.

“Bull****. You were going hunting with us guys and it really didn’t matter to us if you smelled like ass or balls. You want to know the real reason you washed your ass and balls?”

“Tell me.”

“Because somewhere in the back of your head you thought there was a slim chance you might get some *****. You knew better, you knew there weren’t going to be any women out in the woods, but in some little corner of your brain set the thought, ‘I might get some *****.’ Just that shadow of a thought was enough to make you wash your ass and balls. If you go to that much trouble for ***** that you’re not gonna get, what are you gonna do for ***** you might actually get? You’ll do damn near anything the owner of the ***** tells you to do.”

“I’m not buying that. I still think men are in charge.”

“You’re delusional, my friend. Only reason man thinks he’s in charge is ‘cause that’s what woman wants him to think. If man was really in charge, what do you think life would be like?”

“Like it is now?” Again Victor’s statement came out sounding like a question.

“I used to think you were a smart mother ****er, but man, you’re really kind of stupid. What are the three most important things to a man?”

“I don’t know. Success, power, and achievement?”

“You give us too much credit. You want to know what we’d do if we had our druthers? ****, eat, and ****. Sometimes all three at the same time. We’d take the food we wanted to eat, squat down and **** when we felt the urge, and throw women down on the ground and **** them when we were horny. We’d hump them for maybe a minute or two, then we’d take a nap, go find some food, and do it all over again.

“And you think we’d **** women our own age? Hell no. We’re hardwired to plant our seed in the most fertile furrows we can find. You think we’d be throwing down fifty- forty- or thirty- or even twenty-year-old women and humping them? Maybe if there weren’t any other women around, but if there were thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls with **** in the area, those are the furrows where our bodies would tell us we should plant our seed. You know why we don’t act this way?”

“Because we’re civilized creatures and not a bunch of apes in a monkey house?”

“Exactly. We don’t go around doing this because of civilization. Now let me ask you this: who invented civilization? Man or woman?”

“Women, probably.”

“Your *******ed right it was woman. You still think woman doesn’t run the show?”

“Well thank God for civilization. So you’re going to have sex with Lisa tonight.”

“****ing A I’m gonna have sex with Lisa tonight. I’m gonna hit that ***** like it ain’t never been hit. You ought to get some ***** yourself. Lisa’s friend Jenny ain’t doing nothing tonight.”

“I’ve got things to do.”

“Jesus Christ, Victor, you ain’t been with a woman since Jackie and your boy died. It’s been damn near a year. How do you stand it?”

“I beat my dick like it owes me money.” Truth be told, sex was about the farthest thing from Victor’s mind, but he wanted to end the conversation. He didn’t feel ready to talk about things like Jackie and their son and wanted to change the subject.

Lobotomy Boy
09-06-2004, 21:30
Yikes. The computer took care of censoring the story for me. Well I guess that is one way of ensuring the self-righteous and constipated don't have unintended bowel movements when they confront something that doesn't fit into the narrow little window through which they view the world. Too bad, since such people are unlikely to be writers, much less readers of a forum dedicated to writing.

Miss Maggie
09-06-2004, 23:10
Lobotomy Boy,
I just finished reading your post and I've taken the liberty to offer some suggestions.

In this writing, Ed is very vividly portrayed, but Victor is lacking in characterization. Even if this is just a writing exercise, I would like to see you get into Victor's mind a little more and show us a better picture of what he’s all about. It’s clear he’s lost his woman and child in some way, but we don't know anything about how. Even this tidbit of information comes too late in the dialogue to help a lot. With what little we do know from this writing, Victor’s reactions to his buddy’s dialogue seem too mild. What’s he doing with Ed anyway? He and Victor seem to be opposites. Maybe you can use that to advantage by justaposing one against the other. Give us some more information on Victor and it will greatly add to the exchange.

I made a few editing suggestions in your text. I used all caps, so hopefully they'll be easy to spot. Hope this helps.

Miss Maggie



Sexual Politics
Copyright 2004 Darwin Holmstrom

“I think I’m gonna nail Lisa tonight,” Ed said.

“Huh?” Victor had been concentrating on driving and hadn't been listening to his traveling companion.

“I’m gonna **** the slippery snot out of Lisa tonight.”

“That’s wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin,” Victor said, but appropriate responses had never been one of Ed’s strong suits.

“What’s wrong with getting a little tail?”

“How old is she?” Victor asked. “Seventeen?”

“She’s eighteen, and she’s gonna be nineteen this month.”

“And you’re what? Forty-seven?”

“Forty-eight. What’s wrong with that. She’s legal. Hell, if it was up to me, legal age would be ‘****.’ She got ****, she’s legal.”

“Don’t you think being damn near three times her age puts you in something of a position of authority over Lisa?”

“Hell no!” Ed replied. “You think I have any authority over that woman you’re more of a damn fool than I thought. Ain’t no one tells that ***** what to do. Hell, she tells me what to do. Ain't no man got authority over no woman. Who do you think is running the show anyway, men or women?”

“Well, men have most of the positions of power and own most everything.”

“Yeah, but women own the most valuable property on the planet--that slippery little patch between their legs. Long as they got that, they don’t need to own nothing else. Long as they got the *****, they say ‘jump,’ we say ‘how high?’” Victor tried to think up a response, but at the moment Ed sounded pretty sensible. IN THIS PARAGRAPH, I MIGHT CONSIDER CUTTING THIS SENTENCE: Long as they got the *****, they say ‘jump,’ we say ‘how high?’” YOU HAVE ALREADY SAID IT WELL AND THE REPETITION WEAKENS THE IMPACT.

“You don’t think women run this show?” Ed asked. “You think that and you don’t know **** about being human. Let me ask you this: when was the last time you washed your ass and balls?”

“Last night, before we left home.”

“Why'd you wash your ass and balls?” MAYBE JUST A SIMPLE WHY WOULD BE BETTER HERE—AGAIN REPEATS STRONG THOUGHT YOU’VE ALREADY USED, THEREBY WEAKENING IT.

“It seemed like the polite thing to do?” Victor wasn’t sure of his answer and he inflected up at the end, turning his answer into a question. HIS ANSWER USED SECOND TIME—MAYBE CHANGE TO: Victor wasn’t sure of his answer and he inflected at the end, turning it into a question.

“Bull****. You were going hunting with us guys and it really didn’t matter to us if you smelled like ass or balls. You want to know the real reason you washed your ass and balls?” FIRST SENTENCE WORDY. MIGHT WANT TO CUT THE “TO US” IN THE FIRST SENTENCE. You were going hunting with us and it really didn’t matter if you smelled like ass or balls.

“Tell me.”

“Because somewhere in the back of your head you thought there was a slim chance you might get some *****. You knew better, you knew there weren’t going to be any women out in the woods, but in some little corner of your brain set the thought, ‘I might get some *****.’ Just that shadow of a thought was enough to make you wash your ass and balls. If you go to that much trouble for ***** that you’re not gonna get, what are you gonna do for ***** you might actually get? You’ll do damn near anything the owner of the ***** tells you to do.” PARAGRAPH MAY REPEAT THE SAME THOUGHT TOO MANY TIMES. IT WOULD STRENGTHEN TO CUT SOMEWHAT.BACK OF YOUR HEAD, CORNER OF YOUR BRAIN, SHADOW OF A THOUGH: I WOULD SUGGEST EDITING TO THE STRONGEST IMAGE AND NOT USING ALL OF THEM.

“I’m not buying that. I still think men are in charge.”

“You’re delusional, my friend. Only reason man thinks he’s in charge is ‘cause that’s what woman wants him to think. If man was really in charge, what do you think life would be like?”

“Like it is now?” Again Victor’s statement came out sounding like a question.

“I used to think you were a smart mother ****er, but man, you’re really kind of stupid. What are the three most important things to a man?”

“I don’t know. Success, power, and achievement?”

“You give us too much credit. You want to know what we’d do if we had our druthers? ****, eat, and ****. Sometimes all three at the same time. We’d take the food we wanted to eat, squat down and **** when we felt the urge, and throw women down on the ground and **** them when we were horny. We’d hump them for maybe a minute or two, then we’d take a nap, go find some food, and do it all over again.

“And you think we’d **** women our own age? Hell no. We’re hardwired to plant our seed in the most fertile furrows we can find. You think we’d be throwing down fifty- forty- or thirty- or even twenty-year-old women and humping them? Maybe if there weren’t any other women around, but if there were thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls with **** in the area, those are the furrows where our bodies would tell us we should plant our seed. You know why we don’t act this way?” AGAIN, THIS SENTENCE BEARS TO MUCH REPETITION AND NEEDS CUTTING. THE THOUGHT OF THE FURROWS IS STRONG AND ONLY NEEDS USING ONCE, MAYBE AT THE BEGINNING. AND THEN MAYBE CHANGE THE LAST OF THE PARAGRAPH TO SOMETHING ELSE OR JUST SHORTEN.

“Because we’re civilized creatures and not a bunch of apes in a monkey house?”

“Exactly. We don’t go around doing this because of civilization. Now let me ask you this: who invented civilization? Man or woman?” CONSIDER CUTTING: NOW LET ME ASK YOU THIS. JUST ASK AND I THINK THE THOUGHT WOULD BE STRONGER.

“Women, probably.”

“Your *******ed right it was woman. You still think woman doesn’t run the show?”

“Well thank God for civilization. So you’re going to have sex with Lisa tonight.”

“****ing A I’m gonna have sex with Lisa tonight. I’m gonna hit that ***** like it ain’t never been hit. You ought to get some ***** yourself. Lisa’s friend Jenny ain’t doing nothing tonight.”

“I’ve got things to do.”

“Jesus Christ, Victor, you ain’t been with a woman since Jackie and your boy died. It’s been damn near a year. How do you stand it?”

“I beat my dick like it owes me money.” Truth be told, sex was about the farthest thing from Victor’s mind, but he wanted to end the conversation. He didn’t feel ready to talk about things like Jackie and their son and wanted to change the subject.

Lobotomy Boy
09-07-2004, 05:36
Thanks Miss Maggie. Those were very helpful suggestions. This story is actually adapted from the second chapter of a novel I'm writing. The first chapter develops the character of Victor and explains why they are riding together. At least I hope it does. I'll probably post an adaptation of that chapter somewhere in here.

Nephilim, this forum could be useful. As my writing career advances I find it harder to get real feedback on my work. I think as editors, me and most of my colleagues have progressively lower standards. Perhaps it is because the most well-written books we publish sell in pathetic numbers, whereas some of the most poorly-written books become best-sellers. Thanks for putting in the effort.

Nephilim
09-07-2004, 08:18
Originally posted by Lobotomy Boy
Thanks for putting in the effort.

No problem :) The forum was Eric's idea... I just volunteered to moderate it. Its good practice for constructing writing lesson plans :)

Miss Maggie
09-07-2004, 10:41
Here's what I hope is a characterization scene from a longer story I'm working on. This takes place in the third chapter. Any comments will help.

Rodney and Sarah sat on the porch of the little two-room house in the gathering darkness, Sarah cradling little Abe in her arms. The husky blast from the foghorn of a big truck drifted down the mountainside, stilling the calling of the night birds. Sarah remembered something she’d seen earlier today. “When we stopped by the store I noticed Molly had several feed sacks like the ones I’ve been needing.”
“Maybe they just come in.” Rodney spoke quietly as the glow of headlights lit a path along the darkening mountainside.
“She said she’s had them two weeks.”
“Did you question her?”
“No, Abe wandered to the back of the store and I saw them when I followed after him. Molly said she’d order more because she was getting low. The truck hadn’t come in two weeks.”
“Well, what of it? I can’t remember from one trip ’til the next which sack I get.”
“I just wish you would get four alike, that’s all. I need a dress so bad. I got good enough for home, but everything’s too faded to wear anywhere else.” Sarah tried to change the subject. “Hear that whippoorwill? He’s answering his echo.”
Rodney refused to be swayed. “Is that why your mommy gave you that cloth? Did you go off down there complaining to her?”
Sarah wished she hadn’t mentioned the feed sacks. “No. She gave it to Beth for a school dress.”
“She’s just trying to make me feel like I can’t buy you the things you need.” Rodney’s voice sliced through the night, shrill as the whippoorwills.
“No, that’s not it. She knows how hard you work, but Beth’s her grandchild, too. She buys for the rest of them. She ought to could give my young'uns something.”
“Well, Mommie minds her own business and don’t interfere. She lets the young’uns wear what they got.” Sarah cupped her hand over Abe’s ear, attempting to stifle Rodney's rising voice.
“Your mama doesn’t have enough for herself. Besides, she never goes anywhere to buy anything. I don’t expect her to get for the young'uns.”
“Well, I’m tired of your mama. You give that cloth back to her.”
“Beth’s tickled to death with it. I can’t take it away from her.”
“If you don’t, I’ll give it back and you’ll wish you had.”
“No, you’ll not. It’s just some old cheap cloth Mama got on sale. If she had it, she wouldn’t even use it. It would just lay around and ruin, or she’d give it to somebody else. Beth may as well have it. She needs something decent once in awhile.”
“Now I don’t give you anything decent.”
“I didn’t say that. I just said Mama should be able to give to her grandchild, and Beth needs the dress. Rodney, think for a minute. Beth is six years old. She’s never worn anything other than feed sacks. What’ll it hurt if she has one good dress to wear to school? She loves that cotton with its shiny thread. I don’t have the heart to take it away from her. Before you do, watch how she looks at it. You’d think it was gold.”
Rodney stomped off the front porch, headed toward the barn.
The angry voices had roused Abe, in spite of Sarah’s attempt to muffle the noise. She patted his back and softly sung until he settled back to sleep. Then she slipped inside the house, tucked Abe into bed and crawled in beside him

Nephilim
09-08-2004, 12:31
I appreciate you two participating... the traffic to the forum is slowly increasing. :)

You two cheated though! You took characters from stories you'd already written! ;f

You've both got writing talent, feed me some new characters :) I made up mister sea captain man at 4:30 in the morning ;a

Timber Wolf
09-08-2004, 14:13
Originally posted by Lobotomy Boy
Yikes. The computer took care of censoring the story for me. Well I guess that is one way of ensuring the self-righteous and constipated don't have unintended bowel movements when they confront something that doesn't fit into the narrow little window through which they view the world. Too bad, since such people are unlikely to be writers, much less readers of a forum dedicated to writing.

Seems to me you are a little (NO, more than a little) self-righteous yourself, about whether or not anybody who is not like you can be a "SERIOUS" writer or not.

Keep it to writing here please, if you have other opinions to spout, take them elsewhere.

Lobotomy Boy
09-08-2004, 19:33
Sorry for the cheating, Nephilim. To be honest, as a professional writer, I have very little time for fun writing so I tend to mix it with work. I do have an idea for a fresh character sketch, however, and will try to get it written. First I need to take the time to read Miss Maggie's story, since she was kind enough to read mine.

Miss Maggie
09-10-2004, 22:02
Sorry, I cheated, too. I work and do writing in my spare time, so I used a character scene I already had. I did edit the scene to fulfill the assignment, if that counts. Actually, I was hoping to get feedback on the strengths/weaknesses of these two characters from some of you who do not already know me or the characters.

I promise I'll do the assignment as asked when I get a little more free time. If I work out a characterization, I want to be able to use my new character in a short story, so I'm trying to figure out a story line before I create the character.

Thanks for the effort you're putting into this forum.

Nephilim
09-11-2004, 01:47
Originally posted by Miss Maggie
Sorry, I cheated, too. I work and do writing in my spare time, so I used a character scene I already had. I did edit the scene to fulfill the assignment, if that counts. Actually, I was hoping to get feedback on the strengths/weaknesses of these two characters from some of you who do not already know me or the characters.

I promise I'll do the assignment as asked when I get a little more free time. If I work out a characterization, I want to be able to use my new character in a short story, so I'm trying to figure out a story line before I create the character.

Thanks for the effort you're putting into this forum.

No problem, and I do understand time constraints :)

Try making a character without thinking of the story. You'll be surprised at the results. Likely you'll use the character at some point in the future.

If I told you that you needed to build a car that did a certain speed, designed for a certain road condition, a certain color, and with certain luxury details... different people would give me different cars, but they would all fit a general mold. Alot of creativity would be supressed because the designers would be worrying about the constraints. On the other hand if I got together a bunch of designers and told them to design the most stunningly fluid and beautiful car they could imagine... the results would be incredible. Obviously if you're going to mass produce a car you want constrained results. With writing such constraints aren't necessary. :)

clubsoda22
09-11-2004, 23:28
you've all tempted me to post some of my stuff, i just hope it isn't too long. It's on another computer so i have to find it. It's got no dialouge because it's all infinitive narration streaming from the head of the main character. It got me a "here's an A, come to class whenever" from my english 102 prof. Just wanna see what everyone else thinks.

Miss Maggie
09-13-2004, 09:03
First I need to take the time to read Miss Maggie's story, since she was kind enough to read mine.

Lobotomy Boy,
I'm looking forward to your comments. MM

richardh247
09-29-2004, 12:17
My God, he thought, it was happening again! The impatience was no longer simply the brooding frustrations; it was bound to whistle right through the boundaries he had been taught. So much for the effectiveness of anger management classes (which had cost him plenty out of pocket). Breathing deeply did little to comfort the claustrophobic feelings of being trapped within emotions his current, occlusive silence masked. What the hell was he supposed to do now, sing Billy Joel songs to himself? That thought alone was enough to afford him an inward chuckle.

It’s not like the pencil-pushing armchair warriors that filled the office wouldn’t deserve a good verbal beating. If he got asked one more time about the ribbons on his chest there was likely to be more involved than discussion, anyway. Of course, that’s what landed him in this little hellhole in the first place. His little tuning-up of the jerk-off fellow Sergeant was common knowledge, but accomplished little to dispel the curiosity of the uneducated in warfare when it came to awards.

…And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar…

He missed the line unit he was trained for – damn the secondary designators the Army, in all its political wit, felt needed. Oh well, no point musing on it now when the importance of requisitions should have his full attention. The very thought only facilitated the buried anger he sought to control at the moment.

…And say man what are you doing here…

It wasn’t just the awards or tabs that designated him Ranger, either; those were common enough. Few knew what most of his ribbons were, but he wouldn’t be wearing them if he were not required to have dress uniform on in his current position, anyway. He had been asked more than once why he had a limp in both legs. It was an abnormal sight, he knew, but his response remained the same each time: “’Cause if I only limped on one the other would hurt.” That was usually received with a look reflecting the thanks-for-the-smart-assed-answer-you-prick he knew was coming, but what did they expect with such a dumb-ass question? People have a way of asking about the obvious while being insensitive to the details. That was one trait SFC Kendhall most certainly did not share in common with others.

…Sing us a song, you’re the piano man…

It just pissed him off to be in the ranks of the dimwitted. And the more he thought about it the more the need for release burned. Well, when in doubt, create a diversion. Which, in this case, involved a certain Specialist who made BDUs or Class A Uniforms stick out in exactly ‘topographically-correct elevation locations’. Not exactly a career-building move by any means, but then again, neither was delivering a beating to a fellow non-commissioned officer; once again, proof his place was not in the office setting, regardless of the nimrod decisions imposed on him by the disciplinary board. He reminded himself of his unconscious lack of subtlety as his hand fondled the intercom button.

richardh247
09-29-2004, 12:20
“Specialist Cortez, front and center.”

And, on second thought, “Bring that electronic scheduler you have.”

Now there was something the Army had definitely done right in this silly Clinton regime. Cutbacks were never considered positive momentum by any career soldier, but they had paved the way for the electronic argument. Change begets change, according to the adage; the benefits of the current chain-of-command (like any professional). Politicians were never as smart as they claimed to be, and rarely as smart as they thought themselves, but a professional soldier acting the role of politician was a devious poison, to be sure. Fall back, regroup, and readdress.

To be the proverbial fly on the wall when the Joint Chiefs met on that funding bill! When sneaking is the employed tactic of choice employed by the enemy—in this case, the Libertarian party—the victor is simply the bigger sneak. Seldom understood by the civilian populace, the benefit of soldiering cultures and attitudes constitutes an under-handed way to protect their own. Every great leader perfects this attitude. SFC Mark Kendhall was a great leader. And the current chain-of-command had many like him.

Perhaps one day he would test these technological advancements himself, though it wasn’t looking too positive at this time. And that was another thing… at least they could have offered him a range position, or a Drill Sergeant slot? Why would they want all that experience in a chair, looking over a bunch of candy-ass, crayon eating…

His thoughts were interrupted by the knock on his some-what private office door, which was open.

“Enter.”

And enter she did, much to his chagrin. Not ignoring all of the formalities she knew he hated, she remained silent and came to the position of parade rest exactly six steps in front of the desk that took up much of the available open-floor space. When you spoke to a man of his stature, you did so in a way that reflected respect, regardless of your thoughts on his position. She, however, had no such barrier to overcome. She welcomed the idea of being in his presence, the prediction she had as a schoolgirl of what soldiers were. Not exactly a large man, he was, none-the-less, broad and handsome. She had never seen a more perfect cru cut, and if he wore glasses she was sure they would have framed the chip-solid jaw and cornered cheekbones. No point in denying it, she was attracted.

Of course, the blue rope on his right soldier, French Fortier Jea hung perfectly on his left so that the gold tip centered his collection of awards perfectly, and the blue discs behind his brass did nothing to quell her attraction. He was still new to the office; the 75th Ranger Regiment patch, both on left and right shoulders, was framed by the black and gold Ranger tab above both and would be worn until orders came through for permanent assignment. She doubted he would be part of the glee club when that happened, the stripping of “official” honor appointed as Infantry (Ranger). Still he made her wait, eyes locked forward and hands clasped behind her back. This was probably his most annoying habit, aside from the unusually loud and deep tone of voice that always gave the impression he was yelling, rather than talking.

When she had written to her parents just this past week, she had used the word “impressive” in her description of the new guy, carefully avoiding sexual attraction inferences. She questioned that word now, wondering if “displaced” would not have been the more accurate choice. Really, he did not fit in. He never would, of that she was sure. He was… different, like an entire breed apart from the salamis she had grown accustomed to over the past two duty stations. Their little office had, indeed, been upended.

His little corner, normally filled only by an officer, gave him an authority he used sparingly, but liberally in areas he felt the need to improve upon. He still answered to the C.O., but was called in less than half the time others in his spot had been in the past. She wondered if their Captain was befuddled or intimidated by the man.

“Stand at ease, Specialist.”

richardh247
09-29-2004, 12:24
She had been caught off guard yet again. God, this man must do this on purpose! A prodigy of his training, or was he just “that way”? The Army was known for breeding funny character types.

“I want the last qualification scores for the platoon. Pick out this,” and with that he began waving his hand in the-whatever-they-are fashion in the direction of his open door “group’s scores and highlight them. Average out the scores and highlight in a different color Marksman, Sharpshooter, and Expert, with the summed average attached separately. That’s four colors, by the way.”

No ****, she thought.

“In addition, I want PT scores. I’d bother mumbling my expectations but I’m sure you know what I expect to see. Got me so far, soldier?”

Uh, oh, here it comes. She knew it was only going to get worse, and it was still Tuesday! “Yes, Ser-GEANT!”

“Get the office squared away, inspection tomorrow at oh-six-hundred. Supplies are to be arranged per SOP, and I want weapons checked out from the armory no later than oh-five-hundred. Class A’s. Make a note that I want weapons cleaned. And don’t look at me like that; I give a damn if ya’ll have enough time to clean yer crap. Keep it clean and the problem would be moot. You’ll learn.”

What look? If anything she was amused: She knew her PT and qualifying scores—not great, but good—and her rifle was clean like a baby’s butt.

“The company training schedule looks like crap. I have submitted reconsideration and been approved, except for the bull**** crap officer country wants for Fridays. I want a memo sent for PT uniform to remind those who have decided they are their own Army. Ditch the civilian crap. After inspection tomorrow find some time for weapon maintenance, no less than two hours. More is the preferred status.

“Still with me?”

“Yes, Ser-GEANT!”

“Good. First formation for this office is now one-half hour before company formation, and last formation one-half hour after. Write the congress if you want to *****, I don’t give a crap. Make sure that option is available to all who open their cocksu… er, pie hole. My apologies.”

“None required, Sergeant.” Little flustered Mary Cortez, and foul language was anything but new to her. She respected the changes instigated by the Army to be more sensitive to their female soldiers, but could not imagine soldiers like Kendhall adjusting easily. The man was a true veteran, a combat veteran, and more than likely had served his years in a line unit, where female/male interaction was unheard of. Women were not allowed in combat arms positions (as they were called), and the male way of thinking and talking was very much different than the fluff most females were accustomed to.

“Got that little gizmo I asked you to bring in?”

“Yes, Ser-GEANT!”

“OK, put these changes into it, or whatever you do to make it work, and post it to my email. Then arrange my schedule so that Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are free from meetings, if at all possible. That’s called Outlook, right?”

At that she had to smile. “Yes, Sergeant, it is.”

“You think my lack of knowledge of electronics is funny, do you not, Specialist?” At that he cocked his head ever so slightly to show her he was not resentful, that he, too, found it amusing.

“Well, Sergeant First Class Kendhall, to be honest, I wouldn’t expect you to know much about it.”

“Oh, “ he retorted, “and why would that be?”

Of course, he knew the answer, but she would oblige. “You are not exactly the desk type, sergeant. I mean, um, that, well, it’s not that you wouldn’t know, just that I wouldn’t expect you to. You have two Silver Stars, you’re a Ranger, and, don’t forget, I do do the processing. I saw your record before you were on the plane here. In other words…”

Arc Angel
11-11-2004, 20:42
:) Hey, I'd like to get in on this. I'll develop, at least, three. Here's my first character:


Chief Petty Officer: Jon Harken, USN, ret.

Retired Navy SEAL w/combat experience in Granada, and Panama.

18 months out, recruited into, ‘purging’ assignments and, ‘wet work’ by the ONI.

Frequently assigned as a commercial attaché and industrial development consultant. Attached to, both, American Embassies and Consulates throughout Central Europe and the Balkans.

36 years of age, physically superior by: habit, routine, and incessant practice. Doesn’t smoke or chew. Drinks only on occasion; but when he does it can be heavily.

Type A personality, though modified by experience and increasing age. good physical condition, but starting to show signs of stress-related fatigue and discomfort – probably occupationally related.

Surprisingly lower than average self-esteem. Unexpected in a senior operative of his obvious experience, advanced caliber, and years of training. Personnel record indicates a recent increase in reprimands, operational snafus, and a, certain, unwillingness to carry out the letter of his orders.

Within two years of being moved inside where he can expect to ride a desk for the last 4 to 5. Then on to what is usually a restless civilian life.

Indifferent to what most people, peers and others think of him. Self-sufficient but increasingly troubled by obtuse concerns. Divorced and less interested in woman, now, than earlier in life.

Enjoys the thrill of the chase, an accomplished hunter/tracker who hasn’t taken out a license or gone on a hunting trip in almost 4 years. ;)

gaz
12-04-2004, 08:05
Few would have called Jimmy Grogan good-looking--he wasn’t. He wasn’t ugly either, yet close up, there was something obvious but indefinable that people saw in his face and it instinctively made them uneasy. It quickly created a feeling of nervousness that could all too easily drift into fear. You didn’t need to be up close and personal to realize this, you only had to watch when Grogan approached a group people: Suddenly, unwittingly, they would all start acting like zebra or antelope do, when they know a predator is near.
Grogans size could mislead you into thinking of him as a big cuddly bear. His six-three frame carried two hundred and sixty pounds. But, if you weren’t alert and found that this particular cuddly bear had somehow quietly managed to creep up on you, you only had to look into those empty eyes to know that the cuddly bit was entirely missing.
Still, Jimmy Grogan undeniably cut an impressive figure. He worked out in the weight room regularly and he walked a lot, always at a brisk pace and, as they say, he carried himself well. For a man of forty-four, he was in excellent shape; he looked it too.
Grogan dressed well, really well, but not in a flashy way: no gaudy colors, no gold chains, no huge rings or sharkskin suits. And that wasn’t just because he had better taste than most, it was because Grogan watched people and observed how they reacted, and he knew that first impressions really did count. He saw how people instantly took their cues from a person’s appearance. If the image presented hit most of the bases, people filled in the background details themselves based on their own experience.
He was particularly aware of how an expensive, high quality material, custom-tailored into a suit of conservative style and impeccable cut, created an almost hypnotic effect on people. Of course, the details were important too: the appropriate shirt, good quality, always sparkling white or light blue; French cuffs with plain cuff-links, that were also plainly gold; the tie that was just right; the highly polished, good quality shoes. His hands were manicured regularly and he paid top dollar for his hair cut. He wore no other jewelry, apart from a wedding ring. Grogan had never married, he wore the ring because it suited the image he wanted to portray. He aimed for the understated look. The look of quiet inner confidence that by merely whispering quality and money, announces the fact more forcefully than if you were to shout it from the rooftops. For the same reason he wore an expensive Tag Heuer watch, the type of high quality timepiece worn by those who appreciate such things, rather than the showy, diamond-studded Rolexes worn by those who don’t.