Teachers Write 6/27 – Thursday Quick-Write

Hi, everyone! Before we get to today’s prompt, I just want to let you know that I’m on the road for the next few days. I’m speaking at the Penn State York Summer Writing Institute (yay!) and will take longer than usual to approve new comments, just so you know. Also…don’t forget that on Fridays, Teachers Write heads on over to Gae’s blog for Friday Feedback, so that’s where we’ll be on Friday! Now…let’s get writing!

Our Thursday Quick-Write guest is no stranger to Teachers Write.

JackieChanCoverJo KKnowles Headshotnowles (of Monday Morning Warm-Up fame!) is the author of the young adult novels Living with Jackie Chan (coming in September), See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings,  and Lessons from a Dead Girl. Some of her awards include two SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards; A New York Times Editor’s Pick and Notable Book; and the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award. Jo lives in Vermont with her husband and son. You can learn more about Jo’s work on her website and blog, and click here to follow her on Twitter.

Jo’s joining us today with this writing prompt:

Getting to know our main characters!

Think of this as an interview, of sorts, where you ask your character questions to better get to know him or he. This applies to all ages, whether you’re writing a picture book, middle grade, or YA. Remember to treat this like a free writing exercise and have FUN. Things to ask yourself:

• What do you look like? (Remember to answer how your character would answer)

• Describe your bedroom. Do you have your own room? Share?

• What is your family like?

• Do you have any pets? Describe them.

• What is your favorite thing about yourself? Least favorite?

• What is your biggest pet peeve?

• What are you afraid of?

• What do you want, but can’t have?

• Who is your best friend?

• Who is your worst enemy?

• What do you want people to know about you, but are afraid to share?

Note from Kate: If you don’t have an active work-in-progress, try writing this from the point of view of a character you dream up today. Maybe it will turn into a bigger idea! Or if you’d like to focus on history or science, try writing from the point of view of some historical figure or scientist or animal!

If you’d like to share a few lines of what you wrote today in the comments, we’d love that – and promise that all our comments will be friendly and supportive. If you’d rather keep your writing to yourself today, in your notebook or on your hard drive, that’s fine, too.

Happy writing!

119 Replies on “Teachers Write 6/27 – Thursday Quick-Write

  1. What a fantastic exercise.
    I am \”bogged down\” in the revision process right now and these questions brought to the forefront an idea I have been toying with. It is the second time it has cropped up, so I think I need to pursue it. Scary thing is, it would change the story drastically. Yup, talking about having you-know-what happen to a character. (I can\’t even write it!)
    In the answers to all my questions there is a strong sense of loss. The original idea is that Daddy returns from WWII and struggles with PTSD. I think I was trying to \”match\” societies, but this girl keeps telling me it\’s different, that her loss is permanent. (If I am about to cry is that a good thing?)
    By the time I got to the third question this morning I knew, without a shadow of a doubt I knew. I wrote her story – not mine.

    3. What is your family like?
    You mean now that we are two? Does two count as a family? What if I lost Momma? That certainly wouldn’t be a family then, would it? See, here’s the thing, a simple matter of math. Glen, who lost both a brother and a father, still has eight people. That’s a family, a sad, hurting family, but a family nonetheless. I’ve got two. Me and Momma. We’re no family. We’re just two people sharing in the same house.
    I flex my hand and stare at the still empty space on the paper. I write, “Me and Momma are family now. We get along fine.”

    1. Kimberly, I love it! It seems like this is the direction you need to take, especially when it’s evoking such a strong personal response for you. I think crying as you read and write is a good thing..you want to reach the reader! Good luck!

  2. Ok, thanks so much for sparking something in me today. This is a really quick write…it just seemed to pour out of me as I sat on my screen porch this morning and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise! Any comments are welcome!

    Autism sucks! They think I don’t know the word, that I haven’t heard them talking about it, about ME, that I don’t understand when the doctor explains to Mom why I act like I do (like he REALLY knows), but I hear it all. I’m not stupid! Everyone assumes that just because I can’t answer a question the way they want it answered, the way it seems EVERYONE around me can answer, that I don’t understand. But I do. Every day, I do.

    My name is Tommy and I’m on the spectrum…yeah, that famous autism spectrum. I hear on the news and I hear the doctor tell my Mom that the numbers of kids with autism is rising, rising as fast as the space shuttle into space! But, I don’t see anyone else like me around. In school, I’m alone, there’s no one else like me in third grade. How would you like to be in a third grade classroom and know that everyone is staring at you for what feels like every minute of the day?

    I think I look normal…I’m not fat, in fact, I’m kinda tall and skinny. I wear glasses, but so does Carrie and Mike and the Tommy in Mrs. Smith’s class across the hall. My hair is brown and I don’t like to comb it a lot, but, let’s not even talk about going to the barber shop! See, that’s where I’m different. I don’t like a lot of the things that the other kids like. Sounds are a big one…LOUD sounds especially. They startle me, they scare me, and they hurt my ears. When I hear loud sounds something inside of me just ignites like a firecracker and when that happens, I explode on the outside too. That’s when Mom and Mrs. Hallman, my teacher, say, “Tommy you have to calm down!”

    But, they don’t get it….how can I calm down when my insides are on fire? When I feel like my skin is about to burst with the noise and chaos? I can’t and I bet if they felt like I did, they wouldn’t be able to either! So there!

    So yeah, loud noise is a problem for me.

    1. Enjoyed your piece, Deb! Same thing happen to me. The prompt just sparked a thought, from a book I just finished reading, and the thoughts just started to flow.

  3. As a lover of writing creative nonfiction, I’m going to take these and write them like entries in an encyclopedia, a la Amy Krouse Rosenthal (her Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is one of my all-time favorite mentor texts.) Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. What a great idea, Shawna!! I’ve used Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia as a mentor text in the past and then asked students to write their own entries as blog posts. I think I’ll start writing my own responses and see where this goes!

  4. I wanted to treat this as an actual \”interview\”.

    • What do you look like? (Remember to answer how your character would answer)
    Well, I am a princess. I look like a princess.

    • Describe your bedroom. Do you have your own room? Share?
    My bedroom is decorated in pinks and purples. I have a huge royal bed. Tons of toys all around. It is a really nice room.

    • What is your family like?
    My parents are the king and queen of The Kingdom of Greenfields. They are wonderful and royal and powerful. I love them very much! I have a sister named Princess Lucy Mae…but we call her \”The Goose\” (it is a long story). She is your basic little sister – sometimes she is my friend and sometimes she is my enemy!!!!!!

    • Do you have any pets? Describe them.
    Hmmm…that\’s a hard one. I guess I do not have a pet really, but we have lots of animals on the manor grounds. There are the royal geese and ducks that live in the pond, the horses in the royal barn, and some other livestock that live on the grounds. My sister treats them as pets but I most certainly do not!

    • What is your favorite thing about yourself? Least favorite?
    I am a princess!!!! I love being a princess!!! I guess the one thing I could \”work on\” is being nicer to my sister.

    • What is your biggest pet peeve?
    My sister steals my favorite toy whenever she has the opportunity. I have a pair of cotton candy pink princess fairy wings that I love to prance around the castle in – they make me feel like a real live fairy! My sister loves them too. Those wings caused a real \”incident\” at the castle a while back (again, a long story).

    • What are you afraid of?
    Not being a princess anymore. Not having flowing dresses. Not having my family (even Lucy).

    • What do you want, but can’t have?
    I want my cotton candy pink princess fairy wings to be real – I want them to allow me to really fly!

    • Who is your best friend?
    My sister Princess Lucy.

    • Who is your worst enemy?
    My sister Princess Lucy.

    • What do you want people to know about you, but are afraid to share?
    I could never publicly admit to wanting to be more like my sister Lucy. She is so unconventional. She does not care about getting dirty. She plays with all the castle animals – which gives her many more day to day playmates. She is not afraid of anything (not even being magically turned into a goose…by mistake I might add). I must be fun to be so free spirited.

    1. I like the interview format. What a princess your character is!!! I thought about using that format too or using a letter format like Stephen Chbosky used in PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

  5. I’m having fun with this but not quite ready to share “her”. She is really coming to life and I love her already! 🙂

  6. I had some fun with this quick, quick write. I’m hoping to leave the reader, or the writer, wondering…

    People think they know me, but they don’t. They don’t really know me. In fact, I’m not sure I even know me, and I’m not sure I even want to know me, but I do. What would people think if they knew the real me. It’s that power of perception you know. As long as I look and act the part, I guess that’s okay, for society anyway. I’m my worst enemy and afraid of me. Afraid of what others would think if they knew the truth.

    1. I absolutely love this. I have no idea who the character is (boy or girl or age) but I think many can relate to it. I know that I can see myself described as this sometimes (as scary as that may sound). Great job! 🙂

  7. Thanks for this prompt. I’ve been working a lot on going deeper to revise a challenging character this week (I blogged about it here – http://elissafield.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/novel-revision-revising-a-flat-character/ )
    As much work as I’ve done on my 2 adult main characters, I am off to use today’s prompt to think more about their son. He’s young enough to say little… but I bet this warm-up will bring out something I haven’t thought of before from his perspective. Thanks for the prompt – and good luck with your writing everyone. If you end up clicking through to read that blog post, say hello in the comments 🙂

  8. Good Morning, Jo! Thank you for this wonderful activity.

    I tried something a little different with this activity. I am working on a sport’s story geared toward a third-fifth grade reader and I have been sharing the manuscript with my daughter (a 4th grader). I had her answer some of these questions about the main character in my story. Some of her responses were very interesting and eye-opening. Example – the main character is a bit lazy with his school work – she thinks it is because he is afraid to succeed in school because the only success he has found has been on a sport’s field.:)

    I also thought that some of these questions would be great to use with my sixth graders – when they are identifying the main character in a story (usually during lit circles).

    Thanks again. Have a great day!

    1. That is a really good idea, to do research woth kids the age of your character. When I was doing my writing, I was having to rely on my memory of my 10 year old self. I was not sure how well I could trust that, and wondered if it would be so out of touch with how kids think today it would be unappealing. Thanks for the great idea.

    2. Andy, That’s really great, how you put the material to the test with your daughter. I think teachers have a unique advantage in writing for kid/middle grade readers because it sometimes seems that otherwise a writer is writing from memory of their own childhood, rather than motivated by the interests of the kids who’d read the book. I mean that as a positive thing for writing teachers, of course, not a criticism of other writers. Sounds lilke you had a great writing day.

    3. Hi, Andy,

      Your daughter’s insightful comment echoes that of Nora in Andrew Clements’ The Report Card: “Ever since first grade the soccer field had been the only place where I really let myself loose. I had never had to hide anything out on the soccer field. I could be as smart and creative and talented as I wanted to–because nobody ever treats a gifted athlete like she’s weird. And that’s not true if you’re a gifted student.” (p. 83)
      So many students can identify with that.

  9. I am so excited to jump into today’s prompt! I did something similar about three years ago when I was really getting started on my WIP. I think my character’s answers might be much stronger and more evocative of HER now, and I look forward to comparing them. I’ve already promised myself not to peek before finishing this piece of writing.

  10. I LOVE this idea. What went into my notebook today are the 11 questions and my plans for using them. I will have my7th graders use this very early in our short story writing unit. Hopefully this will help the, realize the main character is NOT self. 🙂

  11. I just asked my imaginary character this question:
    • What is your favorite thing about yourself?

    “Most people who assume that my big green eyes are my favorite physical thing about myself but they are not. My favorite physical thing about myself is my slightly deformed right ear. Weird, huh? My sister has one almost like it. I suppose it’s inherited. My strange ear looks just like a normal sized ear with your typical ear shape until you get down to the lobe. It doesn’t flatten out into a rolled out pie-crust shape like most earlobes, it is sort of gathers up with the cutest tiny bump where an earring would attach. I catch people noticing my ear, but most say nothing. Children, on the other hand, are quick to ask, “What happened to your ear?” Did I mention that I was born into a family of liars? Perhaps liar is too strong word- whopper-tellers would sound nicer. The story I developed over the years was that a neighbor’s small pet alligator took a bite of my ear and that’s how it has looked since the nibble. This is entirely true, although it is not the cause of the shape of my ear lobe. It was my mother who helped me understand from a very young age to be accepting of my unique ear shape. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

      1. Julee,
        I know the feeling…but I have to say I did not notice anything glaring, just that your writing felt natural. It was believable and authentic feeling. I love your character already and want to find out more about this family of liars. :-).

  12. Okay. Here goes. I have never tried to write a true story with characters. My work has been more descriptive essay type writing. So gulp…here goes. (Thanks for the stretch to move outside my comfort zone)
    Here is a my “Character’s” description of herself:

    I am ten this summer. One decade. I like the sound of that. It is really weird to think that in one more decade I will be twenty. That is so old! I get light freckles on my nose in the summer. I kind of like that, but you can hardly see them. I wish I had more. There is a girl I see at the park and she has a lot and they make her look interesting. I have long blonde hair. I got it cut once into a pixie. The lady made a big deal saying I was so lucky to have such thick hair. I just know when I try to put it in a pony tail, two wraps around with the band is not tight enough, and the bands often break trying to go around the third time. I have blue eyes. But they are the dark, ordinary sort of blue. My little sister has a cute nose that turns up at the end. My dad calls it a ski nose. But my nose is ordinary too. I have bushy eyebrows. I am not tall and not short. Not skinny and not fat. My mom’s cousin’s wife Sherry told me once I had pretty feet. She is from Kansas and said it in that way of talking people from there have. It made me feel good when she said it. People don’t often tell me things like that, although my Brownie leader once told me I had a pretty voice. I like to sing. Maybe I can believe Sherry about what she said about my feet. She is the sort of person who spends a lot of time making herself look nice. Her tiny bathroom is full of bins of tubes and creams and all sorts of girlie stuff some grownup ladies wear on their face. I don’t look like my mom, or my dad, or like my brother or my sister. I just look like me.

    1. This feels really “ten-year-old”! I like how she jumps around a lot, but sticks to her looks as she compares them to her sister, or how others have commented. It makes sense that she would mention her mom and dad specifically (very important in her life) but also the strangers around her. Your character seems really observant and thoughtful. Nice!

  13. here is just a piece…I actually could just keep going…love this prompt!

    You want to know about my bedroom? Ok, well. I still live at home (lame I know) and it is fairly small. Green carpeting though you don’t get to see much of it. There are two dressers we got from my grandparents house after they died – both of them in the same summer- that was rough. I have a Nascar blanket used as a curtain and a collection of (still in the packages) Nascar toy racecars tacked in a row high along the walls. I have a lot of clothes. A while ago, my mom cleaned out a dresser in the spare room next to mine. It was filled with old t-shirts of mine. She put them in one of those Clothes Boxes that you see in the parking lots of churches and strip malls. That wasn’t funny. I contemplated crawling in to get them out but did not want someone calling the cops on me. Seriously, she threw out my clothes. Some of those shirts were my absolute favs. You know the sleeveless t-shirts that totally show off your muscles? I wear them doing yardwork for my clients (I have my own sort-of landscape business). She promised to never do it again. Whatever. Won’t get those back.

    1. Great voice. I like how his obsession with clothes shows how proud he is of his body. I like the interesting bits like the Nascar curtain and climbing into the clothes box fantasy.

  14. I have this page marked in my Spilling Ink book and use it with each of my characters. Here is what I have for my current work. The questions are out of order from those above.
    I’ve been doing this exercise ever since I purchased the book, “Spilling Ink”. My questions are a little bit different since I took them from the book and this is what I’ve been working on.
    If I had to tell you one thing I don’t want people to find out, it is that I’m a preacher’s kid. When they find out they usually pre-judge me based on my dad’s job. It makes it hard to make friends. Any friends I make are afraid my dad will judge anything they say or do. He probably would too. They find it easier to be friendly at school and stay away from my house.
    If my best friend had to describe e he’d say I was the best looking kid in school. Just kidding. He would describe me as a shaggy headed or mop-top kind of guy. I keep my hair like this to bug my dad. It is the only thing I feel I have control over.
    Very few things bug me except my dad constantly yelling at me and putting me down. I figure that is just my life, being the kid of a preacher. You know I have all of these high standards, (his) I have to live up to. My mom bugs me when she flits around treating me like I’m some little kid that has to be protected from my dad. I know she loves me but she needs to just drop it. It will all have to come to a head between us in the future anyway.
    If I had to tell you one thing I’m afraid of it is doing something so wrong that God won’t forgive me and I’ll go to hell. You thought I was going to say I was afraid of my dad didn’t you?
    You should see my bedroom. It’s just ordinary. I don’t have any sort of trophies or anything because I got yanked from the football team to move down here. I have a guitar and a banjo on my wall across from my bed. I also have one wall that is full of bookshelves and books. I love to read. It has always been the way I escaped from my dad and his harsh words. I could open a book and be somewhere else for a little while.
    I guess if I had to tell you what I really wanted out of life it would be to live my life for me, not live it for my dad or his church. I don’t want to be judged by his profession. I want the opportunity to be me, whoever that is.

    1. Makes me want to read more about what it must be like to be the son of a preacher, at least this preacher. I wasn’t expecting a lot of yelling to be going on, interesting!

  15. I’m kind of average, sort of someone your eyes would glide over cause I blend in so well. That’s not to say I’m bad looking–I don’t stand out, which is fine with me right now.

    I’m lucky I have a bedroom. Given the way things are going, it’s lucky any of us have bedrooms, let alone a house. It’s a decent room, the usual sports posters on the walls. Things are starting to look a little worn–torn bedspread, missing slats in the blinds. This never would have happened before. My mom used to be “little miss perfect”, that’s what she called herself. There was a time not long ago when she wouldn’t even get out of bed, then you should have seen this place. Now she is up and around–a bit on the zombie side, but at least she almost looks normal. My little brother, Will, just drives me crazy. That’s all I want to say about him. I try to ignore him as much as possible. I used to wish we had a dog, but glad we don’t now. I wouldn’t want him to starve to death.

    I’m sensible, even my teachers have said that about me. It’s rare in someone my age, they say. And I’ve gotten creative since Dad left. I gotta say I’m amazed at myself, and how I can figure out a lot when we don’t have much to figure things out with. Just wish I wasn’t so negative sometimes.

    I don’t like babies. I mean, kids my age that act like babies. It’s usually the kids that have everything that whine about nothing. Drives me nuts.

    To be honest, I’m afraid of Dad coming back. Afraid of what I might do to him. But on the other hand, what I want more than anything, is for him to be here, but the him before all this happened. I don’t really want him back now.

    I’ve got friends, just no best friend. No one is going to come over after school, and no one is going to want to listen to all my worries. So, yeah, no best friend. On the other hand, I’ve learned this invisibility trick, no one picks on me either. No best friend, no enemies, keeping it simple. It doesn’t mean I’m happy. Putting one foot in front of the other, that’s what the school therapist says to do. So that’s what I’m doing.

    1. Wow! Such a conflicted character. You see where he was, where he is and where he wants to be. You can’t help but feel for him and want to know what has happened to make him feel this way and to be in this situation. Would love to read more.

    2. oh, I really like how much we know without you really telling it yet. This character has a lot to say. It makes me want to listen.

  16. I had to spend some time researching the answers, not easy to do with my choice of “Crazy Horse”, but I think I got to know him much better by doing this prompt- thank you 🙂

    My name is Crazy Horse. I am a Lakota warrior, a protector of my people. Since I lost my 3 year old daughter and the white man has come to take us all in, I am determined to roam. To make the adventure. To fight for our way of life. If you want to know of my strengths, you will have to talk to my friend, Little Big Man, to hear the stories. I am most afraid of my vision coming true- that I will die at the hand of one our our own. I do not trust the white man who talks with forked tongues. They want to take my soul with them when they make those flash pictures. I will not let them take mine! I will continue to live in a tipi, on the Great Plains. No one can make me change my mind.

    (note: Little Big Man restrained Crazy Horse, and then a soldier bayoneted him in the right side. He died later that night)

  17. I started answering these questions as if I were my 10-year-old self, just moved to Michigan, with my dad having just retired from the Air Force. I couldn’t finish answering, because it made me too sad. I was so miserably unhappy at that time that the answers were just too painful to re-imagine. But I learned a couple of things: first, a question like “What is your bedroom like?” is a great one to help kids understand how to include important details, what to leave out, and how to take a slant. The coolest thing in my bedroom then was a little door in the closet that led to the attic. So, of course, I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time describing everything else in great detail. If I were writing a story, I would want to zoom in on that door, because it led to adventures and has been the talk of my friends even into adulthood. Second, I learned that, while I couldn’t share every detail of how I viewed myself at ten with my third-graders, I could certainly share some, and then have them do this exercise with themselves as a way of thinking in detail, then move them into doing this with a friend, then with the character they were getting to know for their realistic fiction unit. It would also be fun to do this at the beginning and end of the year and compare the two interviews.

  18. ok, I will share just one more small piece —

    What do you want to know…I would say tall, almost 6 ft. tall, I work out…a little. Ok. Well, I do belong to gym. Light brown hair – I actually used my sister’s Sun In product one summer and my hair turned really light almost ..rusty? It was a weird color – no one has hair that color. I won’t do that again. I can grow a mustache but it takes me a long time. I used to be the “fat kid” but that all changed after I saw that movie in health class about the guy that just ate fast food…can’t remember the name. Anyways, after that I stopped eating junk and lost like 30 lbs. well, and there was that other situation going on that killed my appetite, and my sleep, and pretty much anything else that was good in my life. It’s better now, five years later.

    1. Your character’s voice really rings true – full of feigned adolescent confidence. You also succeeded in making me want to read more – find out what happened to him. Well done!

  19. Great prompt! I have had a character for a short story (or longer) in my mind for awhile. It was great trying to answer the questions from her point of view. Need to be tweaking the responses a bit more. I had fun!

  20. I am Dean Brewster McConnell, and, for a super hero, I am surprisingly average looking. I have kind of brownish blondish hair, brown eyes, and glasses. I look like a few other kids I know in the fifth grade at my school, and sometimes my teachers call me one of their names by mistake. I have a very average family, including a mom who loves to golf, a dad who loves to bake, a sister who is obsessed with earning Super Trooper Badges, and a King Charles Spaniel who thinks he\’s a comedian. So what makes me a super hero? For some reason I\’ve never figured out, I have this math super power. I don\’t mean that I get all 100 percents in math class — I do, but that is not a super power. Lyle, who sits next to me in class and eats spaghetti with his hands does that too. No, I mean that, pretty often, someone I know experiences a big problem, and this thing happens, this strange thing that started when I was in kindergarten, and sha-bam, my super powers kick in, and, well, I fix things with math. Really, it sounds much simpler than it is when I explain it like that. I think to appreciate it, you need to step into my house. It also looks a lot more average than you\’d think, until I show you the math secrets in my bedroom. Come on, I will give you the top secret tour. Just do me a favor, okay? Don\’t touch anything. People touching things in my bedroom — things they think are ordinary, because they look ordinary, but I know they are NOT AT ALL ordinary, because I know they are part of my powers — well, that makes me have to recite the digits in pi to calm down again, so just don\’t.

    1. Your writing has a clarity about it. Description of Lyle was funny. And interesting idea that math is his super power. I was thinking maybe he is obsessive-compulsive? And like the no touching in the bedroom, want to find out about what’s in there that might be magic.

  21. This a small excerpt from a chapter in my MG wip where we meet Carlee, main character Gemma’s best friend. Their friendship is complictated and the chapter explains this more fully, but this is just a brief interaction between the two.
    In it, I think we learn more about Gemma than Carlee.

    “So, what are you doing this weekend?” Carlee asks.
    “I’m going to my dads’ house.”
    “Can’t you get out of it?”
    “No, I can’t. They’re making me help them with the renovation project. Something about teaching me responsibility.” I’m lying. My dads told me I could skip going to their house if it ever interfered with what regular teenagers should be doing. My parents all said that they don’t want the custody agreement to keep me from having fun and being a normal teenager. After all, if there was no Sadler and my father still lived with my mom and me, I wouldn’t skip a sleepover just to hang out with my parents. That would be weird. But the truth is, I miss him and Sadler, and I want some dad time.
    “Great,” said Carlee flatly. “Well, whatever, Farrah and Mallory are coming over. Sophie too. We’re having a sleepover.”
    “I wish I could go,” I’m telling the truth now, but it’s not worth giving up a weekend with Dad and Sadler.
    “Who says you’re invited?” Carlee asks. She likes to mess with my head.
    “Whatever,” I laugh.
    “Whatever,” she replies. I’m pretty sure she was kidding with me.

      1. Thank you, Kate. I teach 9th grade and I’m amazed at how even the best friends seem to be on edge with each other at this age. There is a lot of uncertainty in friendships and relationships at this age, I think.

  22. I’m very literal and stuck to the interview format. Answers built up to a parallel story in this last response.

    What do you want people to know about you but are afraid to share?
    I write poems.
    “Right!” you think, “a cool surfer dude who washes dishes in his parents’ restaurant writes poems? Sure!”
    Well, it started like this. My dog Chip died in his sleep one night – old age – after all he was the same age as me. I was devastated – he was my best friend. He even waited at the shore when I surfed – his sturdy black head fixed on me as I surged along the crest. He knew all my secrets – even that I had a crush on Chantelle, a girl from New York that I met at the beach.
    With Chip gone I was lost.
    At school that day Mrs. Baker, the librarian, who also waittressed at our restaurant on the weekends, saw my face and asked me what was wrong. I broke down. Mrs. Baker handed me a slim yellow book and said, “You might appreciate this.”

    I ditched school, went to the beach and didn’t go home until I read every page. You see, Jack’s dog in the book, Love That Dog, got suddenly run over. Jack hated poetry – he didn’t get it at all. Of course he kept writing his poetry assignments and eventually the poems helped him with his sadness.
    I wanted help with my sadness.
    So ever since then I wrote and wrote and wrote.
    On everything guest checks, math notebooks, envelopes sometimes even napkins.

    So much depends upon a red surfboard.
    Flecked with sand
    Beside my black dog, Chip

    1. I like the line “his sturdy black head fixed on me as I surged along the crest” I can see his eyes even though you don’t mention them. Love the transition to poetry. So natural.

  23. • What do you look like? (Remember to answer how your character would answer)
    I have an ever-changing look. When I was younger I used to keep my hair really long—very hippie like. It matched my bohemian personality. I then cut it off and would bleach it or colour it depending on how my artistic temperament felt like that day or period. I am average height and average looks, although my voluptuous upper body has gotten me a lot of attention, sometimes wanted, sometimes not.
    Right now I was forced into rehab and my hair is growing long again. I need to step up my appearance, because when I get out I don’t want my daughter to think I have given up on life.
    • Describe your bedroom. Do you have your own room? Share?
    Well…my bedroom is literally a bed in a room. It is very stripped of personality. There is a bed, a nightstand, a bible and a twelve step program book. I have a small desk with a hard chair in the corner. The walls are bare. The curtains are a lacy white against boring white walls. There is a cheap gray carpet and the bed spread is a 70s style orange and brown patterned thinness.

    • What is your family like?
    Last time my husband came he brought my sketchbook. I haven’t felt fully inspired, because I am in a withdrawal phase on so many levels. He tries to be there for me, but he doesn’t understand me. We ended up together after a weekend adventure many years ago. I became pregnant and ended up keeping the child.
    My daughter is my life. I am so happy I kept her. She means everything to me and grounds me when I need to be grounded. Unfortunately I allowed my self pity to forget about her for sometime.
    When I was growing up my parents were there but absent. My father was abusive to my mother and drank. My mother was combative with my father but withdrew from the family when things would get out of control.
    I was an only child after my older brother died in a pool accident. My parents never spoke about it, although my six-year-old self needed to know why my older brother wasn’t there anymore. They told me he left us and wasn’t coming back. Nothing else. No counseling, no talk about it.
    • Do you have any pets? Describe them.
    I had a goldfish as a child, but when it died I never got another. I remember crying for hours and days on end, but my parents old me that he left us and wasn’t coming back. That was their safe answer, something they felt they didn’t really have to explain.
    • What is your favorite thing about yourself? Least favorite?
    My creativity has to be my favourite thing, because it allows my imagination to become alive and remind me that things can change if you set your mind to it. It is like my own “glass menagerie”.
    • What is your biggest pet peeve?
    Controlling people, although there have been countless times I sought controlling people unconsciously or maybe sub-consciously.
    • What are you afraid of?
    I am afraid of being alone. I constantly need people around me or with me. I don’t want anyone to leave me and not come back – like my brother.
    • What do you want, but can’t have?
    I want to have my freedom back. I feel like I am imprisoned physically and emotionally.
    • Who is your best friend?
    My daughter. I feel she needs to be protected the way I never was. I guess it’s like me trying to protect myself.
    • Who is your worst enemy?
    I am. I constantly sabotage my progress and am self-deprecating. It seems I cannot stand to see myself succeed for too long.
    • What do you want people to know about you, but are afraid to share?
    I think that people would be surprised to know that I suffer from depression. Too many stigmas about mental health issues exist and I feel I cannot be true to who I am, not as a self-fulfilling prophecy, but rather as a chemical imbalance over which I have limited control.

    1. I haven’t re-visited this piece of writing in several moths. Not going to post anything from the writing itself, but give people an idea of where the story is going through the main character.

      1. Ironic that her fear is being left and yet by being in rehab she has left everyone else in her life. Interesting character. I don’t so much see her as hear her. Her voice speaks “lonely.”

        1. She is lonely. She has gone from one toxic relationship to the other. I am about 40 notebook pages (single-spaced) in. I haven\’t really gotten to what she is about, but rather people\’s impressions of her, through vignettes. I am hoping I will find the time to get some focus back onto the story. The villain of the story was created in the likeness of an ex. When we hooked up again for a short time, the writing stopped. We aren\’t together… again. I have to find that voice I was writing with. This activity has helped, but mostly your comment has helped. Thanks Gretchen!

          1. It\’s interesting how both comments talk about sensing her loneliness. I am happy there is a clearly defined personality.

  24. \”Maybe I can believe Sherry about what she said about my feet. She is the sort of person who spends a lot of time making herself look nice.\” I love how in such a nice, concise sentence, you broaden Sherry\’s character and make her believable to your heroine. She obviously needs reassurance, and as your reader, I\’m happy that she gets it. I really like her. She sounds darling. I\’m also guessing that she might be adopted, given how she compares her physical appearance with her family\’s. I love how this bit of mystery hints at what could a rich conflict and plot.

  25. So, Im still writing on this prompt, but I’m at like 5 pages, should I still post it on here? I just sat down and started writing, and didn’t realize how long it was getting.

  26. If I ever wrote a book, I know that I would write more of a memoir, a story about the trials and tribulations of being a girl and dating and everything that I always wish people had told me it would actually be like, and I would base it on me, because it would be about my own life, and everything that I have been through with dating and relationships and boys and how those experiences more then most have made me who I am today. So for todays prompt, I’m writing about myself, the me that would be in this book. If I wrote a book, I honestly think there would be need to be a prologue, where I explain that the stories in this book are from journals and that I’m writing some of them ten years after they’ve happened, so this information might be important to know before you read it.

    • What do you look like? (Remember to answer how your character would answer)
    I pretty much love how I look, I’m 5 foot exactly, which I love telling people, because it’s the same as 60 inches, and it’s the exact height you need to be to ride all the rides at Kings Dominion. My hair is technically this color called “dishwater blonde” and its boring and I’ve never been a fan of it, so I enjoy being a redhead instead, it’s a red brown, but more dark red, like auburn, but a little brighter red, its unique. It changes in length, but usually falls just below my shoulders, and occasionally I get bold and cut it above my shoulders, I always say as long as I can get into a ponytail. I have an average, athletic build, in shape, but no crazy 6 pack. I have blue eyes, and I love my eyes, because they look awesome with purple eye shadow or dark brown eye shadow, with my hair color, they pop and are one of my favorite features.
    • Describe your bedroom. Do you have your own room? Share?
    I have always had my own room, except for the 1 year I lived in dorms and hated sharing. But my room is amazing, its not very big, which makes it cozy and the way I decorated makes it super uber girly, which I love. The walls are all lavender, the trim around my two windows, closet, bathroom door and hallway door are bubblegum, Pepto-Bismol pink, the doors are also this color, its that pink that is bright and bold and screams girly. Then around the top of the wall is a stencil that is about 5 inches thick in bright turquoise that looks like zebra print. This stencil matches the sheets on my twin bed which are turquoise and white zebra print with a pink and white zebra print pillow. My bed is never made, and it has three pillows and a big pink pillow, and a blue body pillow and several stuffed animals that I’ve had for years, that I honestly cant sleep without. Everyone says it looks crowded, but I’m small and don’t take up too much room, so for me its perfect. My walls are covered in picture frames, I have tons of them with my friends and my family. I love pictures, they are reminders of moments in time that were just plain amazing, and they are snapshots in time of the years I’ve had with them. I love sitting in my bed and just looking at them and going back to those times, reliving them through the pictures. The rest of the wall space is covered with decorations that have quotes on them that are inspirational, or just sweet reminders of what life is about, all girly. I then have three huge pictures that are Vouge magazine covers from years ago, they have these iconic pictures on them that show the fashions of the time of the magazines. I don’t have too much furniture, just my twin bed, tall set of drawers, and a dresser, I love my dresser, it has a big mirror that I tape racing bibs on after I run a 5k race, and then I have more pictures in the frame of the mirror. The top of my dresser is what I like to call organized clutter, I leave my jewelry out on top so I can find it easily, that’s like most of my room, organized clutter, but I know where everything is.
    • What is your family like?
    My family, we are one of those odd families that actually get along, and actually enjoy spending time together. I have 1 brother who is 4 years younger then me, and we get along, and always have gotten along. Well except for when I was 13 and he was 13, but when your 13 you pretty much just fight with everyone and anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Otherwise, he and I have always been close and talked and leaned on each other in that way that all parents want and hope for their kids to. We didn’t drive each other crazy or but into each others lives, we are that perfect age difference where we were never in the same school at the same time, other then elementary school for maybe 2 years, so we’ve never been compared to each other by teachers. We have zero sibling rivalry, and never had to compete for attention with our parents. Our personalities are a really great mix of our parents so we balance each other and neither of us are big on conflict. A lot of this of course has to do with how our parents raised us. So, my parents, they are pretty great 95% of the time, and 95% of the time I get along with them. They have always been fair and honest, and always laid out the rules and expectations from the start. They’ve understood what our strengths were and knew where we should be exceling and with some growing pains, understood where we would not. They’ve always cared most about us being happy and doing our best, which meant that it was ok that I would not get A’s in Math, it just was not something that would Ever happen, but that I should be getting A’s in English and History. I grew up in a house where gender had absolutely nothing to do with the rules, me being the oldest meant nothing, and my brother being the youngest held no weight either. Rules, and restrictions and privileges were set down based on logical arguments and reasons. This meant that when we got to the age where our logic was as sound as theirs, we could change the rules by using logic against them. But it meant that I never had the feeling of anything being “not fair” or feeling the need to say “but he gets to…” because things were pretty much always fair, and punishments always fit what we did (although we really didn’t get into trouble much.) and he never got to do anything that I had not already done and vice versa. Its not to say that I didn’t and haven’t, and don’t fight with them, but usually they are short fights and more heated discussions then anything, because I hate fighting, and only once did I have that moment where I stood at the top of the stairs, crossed my arms and said “you don’t understand, and your ruining my life”. To which they said, you will understand when your older, and you know, that really is an annoying thing to say to a 16 year old, but they were right, and I did understand most every decision they made as parents, the older I got. I think why my family is so great is because we actually unconditionally love each other, and not in that fake way, where we pretend to care about each other, but in that real way, where when we hurt each others feelings, or even worse disappoint each other, we genuinely feel bad about it. But I always know that no matter what I do, they will be there, and love me and be my safety net. We laugh and joke around with each other, and look forward to the time we spend as a family of four, all together in the same place. People have been known to say that its weird how well we get along or that we want to spend time together, but I cant imagine it any other way.
    • What is your favorite thing about yourself? Least favorite?
    I don’t get rattled easily, I am incredibly patient in situations where most people would probably either lose it or just give up and walk away. I’ve always had to work really hard for what I want, and almost nothing comes easily to me, and despite what some people think, I work really hard for what I get in life, I don’t give up, and because I have the ability to stick with it, and work through the hard parts, I have the ability to be incredibly patient. I have what you would call “Stick with it ness”. Being patient and being able to stick things out I think go hand in hand, and they are my favorite part of me.
    I am not a fighter, I don’t yell or scream, or have moments of grand standing on high horses, I don’t do conflict and its incredibly hard for me to do something that I know someone I’m dating does not like. Its not that I’m weak, because as you’ll see in this story of me, I have had to be very strong and get through hard things, and make hard choices. But as you will also see, I am not incredibly assertive in relationships either, I say that I am just “picking my battles”, or that “this is not the mountain I am willing to die on”, and while those are true statements, I mostly just hate fighting with the person I’m dating, and I am not good at being “mean” even when there are moments that a person maybe needs to be. This is the least favorite thing about myself, that I have the hardest time dealing with about myself.
    • What is your biggest pet peeve?
    Rude and inconsiderate people, because these two characteristics pretty much cover everything that annoys me, from people not calling or texting back, to people saying things just to hurt others, to ignorant statements that serve no purpose. I think its because I try really hard to be a nice, and kind person and go out of my way to not hurt other peoples feelings, and I have a hard time with people doing things that don’t do anything to help a situation, which is what rudeness and inconsiderateness does, it never helps, only hurts.
    • What are you afraid of?
    There are the simple things that make me scream like a little girl, and close my eyes and run away; like spiders and other bugs, snakes, thunder, horror movies, haunted houses, and people in masks. Then there is the thing that I am scared about that is deep inside me, that I never say out loud that I am afraid of; That no one will love me enough to want to keep me or stay with me, that no one will want to have forever with me. (If I wrote a memoir, this would be a pretty major theme in it because it’s a feeling that I have that affects me a lot in part of my story, a feeling that comes up more then a a couple times.)
    • What do you want, but can’t have?
    I think its more like, what I don’t have yet, and the not knowing when I will get it, and the fear of not knowing if I will get it. But I want to find someone to be with forever and get married and have kids, and there is the worry of not knowing when it will happen. (This would also be a huge theme in my story.)
    • Who is your best friend?
    Jillian, she is the most amazing friend anyone could ever ask for. We met and just instantly clicked, we were getting to know each other at lunch after a class and then we had that moment where we realized we shared something that we never told anyone else about, and realized we could talk to each other about it. We have so many things in common, and yet completely different personalities, which is why we are so great, its like were ying and yang and we balance each other. She is a control freak and a neat freak and kind of neurotic and OCD about the smallest things, But she is the kind of best friend that I can call at 2am because I need a friend to talk to, and she is the kind of best friend that will pretend to like my bf even when she cant stand him because it makes me happy to be with him. She is loyal to me always and if someone puts her in a situation where she is asked to pick sides, she picks me because were best friends and she knows I will pick her too. She’s the best friend that has spent every weekend with me for a month after a break up because she knew I didn’t want to be alone. She has seen the best of me and the worst of me and has been there for some pretty incredible moments, and those moments I would really like to forget happened, she knows all my secrets, the ones I will not tell anyone else. Through all of this there is Never any judgment, only the idea that “we are who we are” and we would never ask each other to change or be Anything or anyone different then who we are”. Were best friends for life.
    • Who is your worst enemy?
    I don’t think I have any enemies, I don’t hate anyone enough to think of them as a nemesis. There are people who are no longer part of my life, and who I will never talk to again, but they are not my enemies or my adversaries, just chapters of my life that are over.
    • What do you want people to know about you, but are afraid to share?
    If I ever wrote a book, then the reader would very quickly find out, there is little I keep back about myself, and that I am “an open book” and I am not really afraid to share about myself.

    1. It’s amazing how certain prompts open the floodgates to our writing…experiences, memories…great job!

  27. My mom says I’m handsome, but I feel awkward as I grow into this man body. I have board straight hair the color of milk chocolate and golden brown eyes. At thirteen, I’m already as tall as my mom, 5’8″. I know I’ll tower over my parents as I get older. My mom giggles at the beginnings of a mustache brought on by puberty.

    Luckily, I have my own room because if I had to share it with my brother, I would runaway. My dirty clothes are strewn onto the floor. Mom keeps telling me to pick them up and put them in the hamper, but I know if I hold out long enough, she’ll do it herself. The lime green desk against the wall is rarely used these days since school is out. My body is imprinted into the mattress of my unmade bed. My favorite gamer chair is sitting in front of the most ancient 19″ TV. I can’t wait to get a flat screen for my birthday. My room may gross my parents out, but it is my sanctuary.

    I love my family even though we have our differences. My dad just doesn’t get me. He thinks being thirteen in this day and age is the same as when he was thirteen. He can’t stand that I would rather play Xbox and chat with my friends instead of going outside to “play”. What am I go to play? I’m one of two kids (my brother is the other) in our neighborhood. Unless you play an organized sport (which I don’t), there is nothing to do outside. My mom at least tries to understand me. She asks about my friends, games we play on Xbox, and music I listen to. No matter how much she tries though, she’ll never understand what it’s like to be a boy, let alone a thirteen year old boy. Then there is my younger brother, also known as my pet peeve. He follows me everywhere and sticks to me like a tick. He crowds me while I play Minecraft, tries to talk to my friends on Xbox live, and pesters me to no end. I hate the fact that he gets away with everything. I’m so sick of hearing, “Be nice. He’s younger than you.” I just want to scream, “SO WHAT!!” Deep down I do love him though. If anyone tried to mess with him, I would be the first to defend him.

    Our family has the cutest dog. His name is Leo, and he is the biggest Basset Hound you’ll ever see. When my uncle remarried, his new wife didn’t like Leo, so my uncle gave Leo to us. He’s pretty old, fourteen. My mom always says, “It will be cock roaches and Leo left when the world ends.” I know he getting close to dying because he sleeps more and more. His two favorite spots are under the table and next to the couch. I love when he tucks his paws under his chin and his ears flap over his eyes to block out the light. I’ll miss him when he does leave us.

    At thirteen, my biggest fear is just fitting in. What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if my clothes are wrong? What if people don’t like me? I guess this is why I spend most of my time alone avoiding my fear.

  28. Thanks for hosting this digital camp. This feels like a huge risk… Thanks for challenging us.

    “No one,” I would say. Because I can’t admit that Grace is my best friend. For lots of reasons. First, she’s a girl and people would take it the wrong way. Second, she can be kind of harsh sometimes because she thinks she knows ev-ery-thing.  Third, she’s a big fan of being careful and thinking things through… when what we really need is to make a move and go with it. She holds us back. And finally, after our last trip, we found out that her parents, her real parents, want me gone.
    Gone in the worst way. Or, at the very least, lost in time.
    As two of Bellicrat’s biggest supporters, they’ll do whatever it takes to return him to the present to wreak his most terrifying type of havoc.
    And as Grace is making the choice between me, her friend, and her long-lost, supremely powerful parents, am I really supposed to call her my best friend?
    “No one,” I would say. 

    1. Love this line: Because I can’t admit that Grace is my best friend.

      …because it says so much about your character. Glad you shared!

  29. Thank you for this quick write–something I’ve needed to do for quite some time, and going through these questions has really helped me move forward. Here’s a snippet (mine got really long!) about my main character, Joelle.I don’t know, I guess I’m fairly typical in most ways. I’m about 5’4, and I have a fairly fair complexion. I try to stay out of the sun for the most part as I have a family history of skin cancer and with this Scots-Irish skin I burn more than I tan. Plus, who needs more wrinkles, right?
    I have naturally curly brown hair.It’s a deep rich mahogany brown; such a dark color that I’m honestly a bit surprised that I don’t have more gray showing than I do. Right now my hair is cut in kind of a reverse bob, which I’ve been told looks a bit like a flapper (a comment I choose to take as a grand compliment, as I adore the twenties era and think flappers are cool as hell, although I’m too much of a curvy girl –even when I was a skinny young thing– to have been one, I’m more of a 40’s pin-up girl type. If you like plump pin-up girls.) Some girls with curly hair hate it and complain about it all the time, and I won’t say I don’t have my fair share of bad-hair days, but I honestly can’t help but think I really won the hair lottery.
    I’m unfortunately about 20 pounds over what I’d really like to be, which is still about 30 pounds over my high school weight, but I don’t think I’m ever seeing that low a number on the bathroom scale (which, come to think of it, I actually keep in the kitchen. In theory, mind you, it is supposed to be more of a reminder to think about what I’m eating, but I still refer to as “the bathroom scale” for some reason, and I’m not altogether sure that theory is working anyhow. Maybe it’s time to put it back in the bathroom? Hmmm…things to ponder….)
    I have blue-green eyes that have become more green than blue over the years, but still change a bit depending on what I’m wearing (except when I cry. My eyes are full-on emerald green when I cry, which I love—the eye color, not the crying. (I’m not a big crier and certainly not when people can see me. I’m more of an inside-the-shower crier when I need a good cry, which even strong girls do every now and again.)
    My hubby Tom and I have two kids, both sassy and strong-willed girls (where on earth do they get it?) so most nights by about 2:00am or so, I’m sharing my bed with all four members of the household. And then there’s the dog! Oh my, it does get a bit crowded in our queen-size bed. Sometimes it pisses me right off when I wake up with a crick in my neck from sleeping in a crazy tangled-up mess legs and arms belonging to kids, pug, and hubby. But, I love the old guy even if he does snore like the dickens and fart in his sleep (the pug, not the hubby. Well, actually…both of ‘em, come to think of it.)

    1. Interesting how your character thinks about her weight – the back and forth of knowing what is rational plus the age-appropriate neurosis. Nicely done.

  30. What great questions to “flesh out” a character. This would be great to try with kids. I did not do the quick write today, but got tons of writing done finally.

  31. This was a great exercise! I learned so much about a character who I am just getting to know. I may do the same exercise for several other characters in the story I’m working on.

    Here’s some of what I came up with:

    • What is your biggest pet peeve?
    People who don’t get to the point or who say the same thing five times. Some people just like the sound of their own voice and it drives me nuts, especially when it happens in a meeting, and you can’t leave. Arrrrr!

    • What are you afraid of?
    Death. Or, more exactly, getting sick and knowing I’m going to die. Having a terminal illness. I watched my father slowly waste away. I’m afraid of that.

    • What do you want, but can’t have?
    A real relationship. People ask me all the time why I don’t get married or have kids or whatever. It’s not that I don’t want that, I do. I did. I’d still like to have a serious relationship with the perfect guy, but with my job, it has been hard to find someone who is willing to stay connected, even if I have to be gone for several months at a time.

    • Who is your best friend?
    My Mom. She’s a rock. She is NOT impulsive, at all. She is calm. She is so good at listening. She’s all the things I’m not. I can call my Mom from anywhere in the world at any time of the day or night and she will be right there for me. I hope she feels the same about me. She is surely the type of friend I would hope to be.

    • Who is your worst enemy?
    Right now it’s something that calls itself “Trop” and is communicating with a few dozen people telepathically. At least that’s what it looks like. It’s been on the news, but it’s a lot deeper than the news has presented. It’s not just a few people hearing voices. I can’t really tell you much more. It’s classified.

    • What do you want people to know about you, but are afraid to share?
    Wow. That’s a hard one. I guess it’s just that I’m not as hard assed as I sometimes appear. I’ve had to get tough to survive, but I still like mushy movies and hanging around in my pajamas on a rainy day. Just because I can take care of myself doesn’t mean I sometimes would like someone to take care of me.

  32. So, my post is an excerpt of a larger writing I did for today’s quick write (I have the whole response on my blog under the working title for my future book called “A Moment in Time”). I wrote from my MC’s point of view and I have her writing an autobiographical essay to her teacher during the first week of school (a popular dreaded assignment). Feel free to hop over to my blog to read the rest – this part is about halfway through my MC’s “essay”.

    Some days I wonder if anyone will truly understand me and who I am. Being a quiet girl doesn’t help me much at school. I don’t have a lot of friends, boys or girls. I have never really gotten along well with girls – they are too dramatic all the time. Usually I hang out with the guys, but lately, that doesn’t work too well either. So I stay to myself, reading or writing – daydreaming basically. I love that I can get so into a book that I never want the story to end and when it does, I’m so upset, I have trouble talking to anyone for a few days. It’s like I have to slowly leave a part of me behind. It’s kind of a cool feeling, being that connected with something, since I don’t have a lot to connect with in my own world. But the scary part is that the connections I have with my books and writing has gotten weird lately. It is like I am completely part of whatever world I’m reading, or even writing, about. Everything else drifts away. I hear nothing except the sounds from the world I am engulfed in. When I finally snap out of it, I feel drained, like I’ve traveled far and wide. I’m having a harder and harder time connecting with what is going on in my own real world. I probably just need to get a life and stop reading so much.

  33. So I’m writing as if I am speaking to my character. It’s a young boy and he doesn’t have a name yet. But he’s being bullied.
    Me: What’s your family like?
    What family? It’s just me, my mom and Jessi now. My parents got a divorce when I was 8. Jessi was only four when my dad left. He sends mom a check when he can.
    Me: Who’s Jessi?
    She’s my kid sister.
    Me: Do you have any pets?
    Not at home. Old Man John let’s me feed his horses sometimes.
    Me: Do you have a favorite? Describe them.
    (He smiles) Yeah, it’s Cassie. She’s funny. She’s a big kid who loves to play tricks. You know her father was a thoroughbred race horse and he won races in the 60s. But Cassie isn’t a race horse. She’s ‘just a farm hand’, Old Man John is always saying that.
    Me: What’s your favorite thing about yourself? Your least favorite?
    I’m too short, so I can’t run fast and I always get caught.
    Me: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
    Whatcha mean?
    Me: Something others do that bugs you.
    **This was a good exercise. I could see my character right away.

  34. As Sarah said, this feels like a huge risk…but that’s what I signed up for , so here goes. I am working with a storyline, a middle school sixth grade-ish storyline, that draws on what I’ve noticed about the kids I teach over the years. Your prompt made me take a step backwards, to get at the heart of my story, really. Especially with this question: “What do you want, but can’t have?”:
    I want to know how the world works. I want to have the secret to fool-proof know how of what a sixth grader needs to think/feel/act like/do so that I can walk through each day with confidence. I don’t want to feel so clueless all the time: when something happens at school, in the hallway, on Facebook…I want to know exactly what to do. Is this so weird? Not really. There are kids in my school who are exactly like this. No kidding. When something happens, they seem to know exactly what to do – and how do I know this, ’cause I, and everyone else, am looking right at them, seeing how they react, so that we can know what to do, too. I want to know what magic potion they take…HOW do they know exactly what to say? what to do? Meanwhile, I’m just standing there, clueless as usual, trying to figure it all out? Trying to blend into the scene, trying to perfect the “I am here but not really, so PLEASE don’t ask me anything!!” look.

    1. Tara, I love the voice in your response to this question – I taught 7th grade for 15 years, and it remind me of all their questions & insecurities. I’m glad you were brave & decided to share!

  35. “I don’t think looks are important. But, if that is what you care about, I will you that I have graced
    the cover of every fashion magazine and have had all the best designers seek me out.
    Possum Magazine voted me the prettiest opossum for record years in a row. Yes, technically, I
    am an opossum and not a possum. But let’s not make a big deal over one letter. We are all
    marsupials after all. And does the one letter really matter? Just like looks. Do they really matter?
    Do they tell you what kind of a possum I am? Or how I live my life now? I think not.
    So, let’s put the silly business of looks aside, shall we?”

    1. Your humor is spot-on. I’d love to see where this is going. I can just picture a possu or opossum strutting down the runway!

  36. Hi! My name is Bridget and I’m eight years old. Very close to nine. I have red hair that will never listen to me and it is always a mess according to my perfect older sister Erin. Freckles have invaded my face and no matter how hard I try to wash them off or erase them they just won’t disappear. My dad says I have Irish green eyes. I’m not quite sure what he means by that but when he says it he talks in some sort of accent and I like that. I have to share a bedroom with my sister Erin. She is thirteen and an emotional roller coaster according to my parents. We each have our own side of the room and I have been reminded thousands of times to stay out of her side. I guess she doesn’t realize that the more she says that, the more I want to go over there. Her side is always so neat and clean. Mine, not so much. When I have to clean it I just shove things in my drawers, under my bed, in my closet and anywhere else I can manage. That’s probably why I am always losing stuff. My brother Sean is 16 and not at home too much. He is always playing some sort of sport or doing things with his friends. I look like my mom and people say I act like her when she was my age. You would think she’d have more patience with me then! My dad is very patient and he likes to tease me. He doesn’t tease my sister too much anymore because she usually ends up crying. I’m not sure why, teasing is great! We also have a fluffy gray cat named Puff, who doesn’t seem to like me as much as I like her. She runs away from me even when I just want to play with her or hug her.

    1. This line…
      “I have been reminded thousands of times to stay out of her side. I guess she doesn’t realize that the more she says that, the more I want to go over there.”

      …captures the “little-sisterness” of your character so perfectly!

  37. I wrote on my blog today with today’s prompt. Everyone tells me I should write a children’s book about my dog Toga. We lived in Germany for one year for my husband’s job, and Toga came along. We traveled all over Europe with Toga, and we have pictures of him in front of famous landmarks, (leaning tower of Pisa, on a gondola in Venice, in Vienna, all over Germany, including Brandenburg Gate, and a bunch of castles and palaces). When I was posting pictures of our travels on Facebook, everyone always said what a lucky dog Toga was, and how most people will never see the things he’s seen. So, maybe this summer I will start my book. Toga passed away last month and I miss him so much.

  38. Everyone tells me I should write a children’s book about my dog Toga, and all the travels he has done. In 2010-2011, our family, including Toga, moved to Germany for one year for my husband’s job. During that year, we traveled to as many countries as we could, and we totally took advantage of it. We have pictures of Toga on a gondola in Venice, in front of the leaning tower of Pisa, at the Baltic Sea, in the Alps, and all over Germany. Some people tell me that they wish they were my dog, so they could see all the things he saw. Toga passed away last month, so I’ve been really thinking about writing this book that everyone says I should do. Traveling through Europe, through his eyes. Cick on my name, to get to my blog.

  39. Just a small bit:
    What do you look like?
    I am 17 yrs old. Just old enough to have to be an adult, but not wanting to. I am medium height with red hair and brown eyes. I would say I am slender, others have called me thin. My father makes me keep my hair tied back under a bandana so that it won’t be as apparent to the rest.
    Describe your bedroom. Do you have your own room? Share?
    It is pretty typical I guess. I have a bed and a closet with my school uniforms and some other random assortment of clothes. It looks similar to what everyone else wears. Muted colors only and certain items are allowed by age. So I have clothes in my closet that have been approved by the elders for teens.
    I am an only child. My parents were allowed to have a baby, their application went through much quicker than others because of my father’s status. But after I was born their application was revoked for any more children.

    1. Such an interesting voice…and there are great details here that make me want to know more about the world this character inhabits!

  40. Developing a character has not worked well for me today. I wrote questions for the character to answer in hopes to “learn more” about her. I have tried with two different characters, but it just turned out…well just crappy. Ugh! I’ll try again tomorrow, maybe with a different character.

    I did this exercise in another writing class years ago, but other people asked the questions and I pretended to be the character. I think I’ll try that. I hope my husband is up for this.

  41. OK, here’s a little riff inside the mind of a second grade boy. I have this idea of writing a story or two that show young children negotiating relationships in a realistic way:

    I am under the steps to the portables with the other guys and I see Mina’s legs come up. I see the hole in her tights where she fell down last week, and I remember how brave and strong I was when she was all bloody and I walked her to the nurse and she was crying. But she is not my friend anymore. At lunch she sat next to Harmony and Harmony gave her an extra ketchup she got with her potatoes. Mina made a smiley face on her burger but she didn’t show me. So when Rayvon said let’s play ninja hideout I said OK. And we’re not going to let girl ponies in. Ever.

  42. Ack! Little time to write today, but I can at least start:
    What do you look like?
    Well, let’s see…I’m about 5’7” – and a half! – with shoulder-length hair that’s not quite straight, not quite curly, coffee-grounds brown. I’m not overweight, rather thin overall, but with pockets of pudge here and there that I used to care about but now am resigned to just let be. I don’t need glasses, but I kind of wish I did – I think they’d improve the look of my face, with my too-light eyebrows and small eyes. My nose is Roman, my chin pointed, and my nails short (I don’t get how those women with those long-ass nails function day to day…) I think, based on impressions I get from others, that I’m not ugly, not overly attractive, but pleasant enough.

  43. So I took Donalyn’s advice and thought about kids in my class. Here is a draft describing the character for a story I didn\’t even know existed until I started writing.

    People notice me. But not for the reasons I would like to be noticed. I’m not noticed for my brilliant smile or sparkling eyes. I’m not noticed for my cool clothes and awesome style. I’m not noticed for my good grades or witty comments in class.

    People notice me because they don’t like me and don’t want to be around me. I’m the new kid. That typical new kid who doesn’t fit in. It’s obvious that my mother picks out my clothes. Most of the boys here at school wear the typical athletic shorts and Hurley shirts with the cool Nike socks and shoes. I look like I just stepped out of the movie Sandlot. You know. The movie that takes place in the 1960s, where all the boys tucked in their plaid button-down shirts to their jeans that were pulled up over their waist? The haircuts were dorky and the boys wore those thick brown or black glasses. That’s me. What’s weird is that I kinda don’t mind how I dress. It’s comfortable for me and I like plaid.

    But my clothes and dorky looks aren’t the reason people don’t want to be near me.

    Kids avoid me because I’m the weird kid. The kid that the teacher is always frustrated with. The kid that blurts out “inappropriate” comments in class. The kid that is always in detention instead of at recess because he didn’t finish his math homework. The kid that throws his friends under the bus when he’s in trouble. The kid that swears at the lunch table then denies it when the other boys tell. The kids that punches other kids when he doesn’t get what he wants.

    I’m THAT kid.

    But, you see, I don’t know how to be anybody else. Maybe I’d rather not BE, then.

  44. I haven’t got a work in progress and since I read Donalyn’s post about teachers writing about their classroom and their students I decided to experiment by writing in the voice of one of my students. I am just finishing first grade and I’m so happy school is out for the summer! You see school is kinda hard for me. Reading is hard. Math is hard. Finishing my papers is hard. But I don’t want anyone to know how hard it is for me so I try to make people laugh and smile instead. I’m good at making people laugh. I want to do good at this school stuff but it’s, you know, really hard. I sorta like my teacher…most of the time. She tries to help me with stuff like reading and math. I like staying after school because there are only a few of us and we play games. But sometimes she gets mad at me. She says “Hurry up…you are as slow as molasses today.” I wonder out loud “Who is molasses?” and then I wonder why that made my teacher laugh. But I don’t care who molasses is because if she is laughing then she can’t be mad at me, right? My mom wants me to do good at school and my teacher wants me to do good at school. And I want to do good at school but I’m afraid that I’ll make a mistake and the kids will laugh at me…and not in a good way, you know. I remember at the beginning of the year my teacher asked who liked to read and I said no. She asked who liked math and I said no. But reading is a little easier now and I think I am starting to like it a little bit. But I like my video games more! So I’m glad school is over and I don’t have to read until September. What? We have to read over the summer? OH NO!

  45. This is an 11 or 12 year old girl I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months. Not sure where this might lead.
    I have a shaggy mop of dirty blond hair. My bangs are too long and are always hanging in my eyes. My teacher, Miss O’Connell, keeps giving me bobby pins to use so I can see better, but I don’t want to see the stupid books she makes us read. The last one was about these three kids who go to another planet to find their father for crying out loud. Who wants to read about stuff like that that could never happen anyway.
    Most of the girls in my class are taller and more “mature” than me. It’s just as well. My dad would freak out if I asked him to buy me a bra. I suppose I’ll have to get one eventually. But for now I’m glad I don’t need one. Asking for a bra would probably make him think of my mother, and that would make him sad. He might even cry. I hate to see him cry.
    We both cried a lot at first. He tried not to, but I knew he did. I didn’t know what else to do. I would think about my mother alone on that ledge. I wanted to be there with her. I wanted her not to be so scared or so sad, or whatever she was so much of that she had to jump, splash, into the river so far below. It still makes me cry to think of it.

  46. Its late, but I got some writing in earlier and wanted to comment. This exercise was very helpful. I have a character, but I couldn’t figure out her name or what drove her. Through this process, she told me her name and so much more. I will remember to use this for my students.

  47. Me? Well…I have two big front teeth with a space between them, covered by big lips usually in a smile.

    My skin? It’s clear and dark.

    I have a sort of flat nose that spreads wide, people say it’s almost across my face.

    My eyes? My granny says they look like ackee seeds.

    My hair? I have a picky picky head and it curls up all around my neck and face in jig-jagged lines.

    My mama calls me handsome ever since I can remember, she still does now, even though my stomach hangs over my khaki pants and I have to undo the belt buckle and zipper sometimes after I eat.

    But I love me.

  48. And, Kate, for some reason the comment box is really tiny on the blog and you can’t see the comments being typed except for 2 lines at a time…

  49. I don’t have a character I’m working with right now, so I asked the questions to my (almost) 6 year old daughter. It was a fun activity and gave me lots to think about. Thanks for the prompt!