Monday, July 21, 2008

Creative Writing 101 - Character Development

I attended a creative writing class once that suggested taking a situation or scene that you witness (a couple sitting at a café, a group of people having an animated conversation on the street etc.) and using that scene as a starting point for character building. Who are the characters? How did they get into that situation? What is prompting them to act they way they are?

I’ve attempted it a couple times but never really found an adequately inspirational situation to evolve into a proper set of characters. That is, until Sunday night.

Matt and I had taken the kids for a ride in the evening, pretty much to get them settled and to be honest – to avoid our normal lengthy nighttime ritual just for a change of pace. On our way home, around 9:30 or so, the kids were snoozing softly in the back and we were just getting ready to pull onto our quiet street when we noticed a car stopped at the intersection.

A woman, probably early to mid 20’s, was leaning her entire torso out of the window and yelling at someone either on the street or in the cheap motel on the corner. The driver of the car was a man, about the same age, slouched in the driver’s seat, looking fairly embarrassed and dialing someone on his cell phone. Here’s the kicker. The woman was completely naked from the waist up. Yep, fun and fancy free my friends.

Now after the initial shock and excitement wore off; I mean stuff like this is a fairly rare thing to witness by two socially dead middle aged parents in the heart of the Midwest, I began to create my own detailed storyline to fit the scene.

The woman’s name is Tamara, and she insists on being called Tamara, not Tammy. She practices the almost extinct art of macramé and also crochets things like pop can belts and purses and sells them on ebay to supplement her income from her cashier job at the local health food store. She’s just gone through a very messy break up with her boyfriend Dan, whom she caught sleeping with her best friend Samantha in a cheap motel.

She was feeling a little sorry for herself tonight and had a few too many bottles of Boone’s strawberry wine while watching Footloose. The fight scene at the bar got her all teary. She remembered the time Dan had punched some guy who had playfully smacked her on the behind at the local bar. She’ll never forget that romantic day they spent together after she bailed him out of jail for assault. Anyway, she’d ran out of liquor and didn’t want to drive to get more so she called up Terrence, her co-worker, whom she knew had a secret crush on her and would jump at the chance to do something for her. Sure he was a complete geek and she suspected that he was stealing herbs from the “male enhancement”display at the store, but he seemed harmless enough and could take her for more liquor.

Terrence was delighted when he got the call and was so excited that he even logged off Socom (his username is TerrITup29) before finishing the battle. He was sure that his online teammates would understand. He wondered if he should he take some of those herbal supplements before he went? He picked her up in his Mom’s Camry and she was so drunk that he thought he had about an 85% chance of getting a little first base action.

He made a critical error though when he chose the route that took them by that motel with the ancient outdoor swimming pool that they had filled in with dirt and allowed every manner of weed to invade.

She just lost it when she saw it, and before Terrence knew it she’d ripped off her shirt, threw it in the backseat, leaned out the window and started shouting obscenities at the numbered doors of the Motel. She was reliving that terrible night when she discovered Dan and Samantha in room 3B and fueled by the power of cheap liquor, she was somehow reliving it barechested.

Terrence was in a complete panic. This scenario had never come up in that online tutorial; “What to do on a date with a hot chic”. Desperately he dialed his best friend Kyle – he was the guru. He’d made it all the way to the finish line with Sarah Grettelman on prom night. Sure, she’d been drunk, and possibly slightly unconscious, but it still counted as a score. Kyle would know what to do – especially with a drunk chic. He just needed to lay low until he got a hold of Kyle. That couple that just passed him in the mini van looked like they recognized his Mom’s Camry. Maybe they knew her from the neighborhood association?!

Now isn’t that fun? Talk about inspiration! Come up with your own characters or at least a believable scenario if you’ve got nothing better to do.

My friend Shawna came up with the following: the driver is her boyfriend and they were having an argument. He suggested that she needed a boob job, and was in the midst of calling one of his buddies to confirm his beliefs and she was so irate that she whipped off her shirt and was soliciting opinions from passersby.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kim and Brian (whom Kim likes to think of as the soon-to-be boyfriend) are driving home from their first date. They are going home early because, in Kim's giddy excitement over the long-awaited first date, she spilled Brian's beer all over his lap, knocked over two waitresses and a bus-boy trying to helped clean up Brian's pants, and managed to knock over a cheap, plastic candle holder on another table effectively lighting it on fire. But Kim thought overall it was going pretty well. That was until the ride home. They were driving down a quite suburban road, sharing a deep, meaningful moment of silence, when a little black spider began to descend from the ceiling of the car. At first Kim tried to play it cool, non-chalantly batting at it with a casual hand, but the spider persisted, inching ever closer and closer to her. They were rounding the corner, preparing to stop at the light by the motel she hoped to someday spend the night with a boy in, when she felt the arachnid touch its spindly legs on her chest. Should just couldn't contain it anymore. She let out a peircing shriek, tearing at her shirt and seat belt. The vigorous motion must have encouraged the spider because before she knew it, the bastard has slipped down her shirt. In a panic, Kim ripped at her shirt, tearing it free from her body and exposing her bare chest. At the beginning of the evening, Kim had thought it would be a good idea to go without a bra, since it would be easier for Brian to cop a feel without it, but now she regreted that idea. Suddenly naked, she could see the creature of her demise perched on one breast and in a frenzy she thrust her body out the open passenger window and shook it off. Breathing heavily, she sat back in the car, just in time to see a wide-eyed couple coast by in a mini-van. Reluctantly she looked at Brian, unsure of what his reaction would be. Maybe he'd be aroused by her bare-chested-ness. Instead, she saw he was a red as a tomato, more wide-eyed than the passer-bys and was lowering his cell phone away from his ear. "I thought you had gone crazy, I was going to call the cops." Kim opened her mouth to say something, anything to salvage the situation but Brian said, "I'm just going to let you off here." and unlocked the car door. Kim got out, still naked from the waist up, and Brian sped quickly out of sight, never to be heard from by Kim again.

Sorry, think I got carried away...