I’m in need of practice, specifically with character description and prose. I suck at these two aspects of storytelling. I like to be all Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue. So, I’m going to start a writing exercise where at least once a day I spend thirty minutes to an hour trying to write as much as I can in terms of character description/development WITHOUT ANY DIALOGUE. I started last night, here’s what I came up with:
Aribelle Justice loved her job. She counted herself lucky. How many people could actually say they loved their job? She loved that every day was the same, yet different. She loved making people beautiful.
When she went into work on a Saturday, she didn’t consider life unfair. She never once thought, “I never get a real weekend! Why didn’t I choose a normal 9-to-5 type career?”
Aribelle Justice loved her boyfriend, once. Not so much anymore. But she hadn’t realized it yet. Things were comfortable with him. He was handsome and intelligent; he treated her with respect. But the spark was gone.
When she left work on a Saturday evening, she wasn’t excited to go home. She wanted to stay at the salon, see a few more guests, make someone else’s date night incredible.
Aribelle had been one of the pretty girls in high school, though no one would claim she was beautiful. She had deep brown eyes and long dark hair, a round face and slightly chubby cheeks. The boys loved her because she was fearless and never took herself too seriously. Senior year, she climbed to the top of the school’s clock tower, in a bikini, to protest the strict dress code. Now, ten years later, her face slightly rounder, her hair slightly lighter and much shorter, she used that same fearlessness and a pair of shears to transform her guests from shlumpy housewives into fierce sex kittens.
She walked into the salon every day with her head high, thanks to two-inch heels. She hadn’t felt her toes in over six years, but she didn’t care. “Beauty is worth a little pain every now and then,” was her motto and she took nothing more seriously than beauty. It was her job, after all.
So it wasn’t fate that she happened to be wearing a stunning outfit on a Wednesday afternoon in March. Dark jeans, a fitted royal blue top, and a killer black blazer. She always dressed to impress. But perhaps it was fate that caused Tom Witherspoon to schedule an appointment with her best friend and co-worker, Lacey, on that same Wednesday afternoon. Or, it might have been fate, if she believed in fate. But she didn’t.
Now I’d like your help. In the comments, give me the name of a character and one or two thoughts on who this character is. I’ll post my practices here and everyone is free to critique to help my improve my writing in this area. Sound like fun? Thanks in advance for your help!
6 thoughts on “Writing Exercise”
This is a great exercise! It’s similar to something I do sometimes when I recognize that I need practice with characterization: After I’ve written a piece like yours, I take each of the paragraphs and expand them into at least a page without adding any content from any of the other paragraphs. Just expanding description and characterization into even more details. I try to turn each word into a sentence or a paragraph of its own.
That is ambitious! Maybe once I’ve done this exercise for a couple days straight, I’ll expand on it like you do!
Ok, so…constructive criticism. (Isn’t that a scary phrase? Always sounds like something mom says right before the castor oil and charcoal bitters come out of the medicine cupboard.)
Just kidding, I’m old but I’m not THAT old.
So, first the good: You are very talented and this is a wonderful example. Based on your high level of skill, I will trust that you actually do want feedback.
Now, the bad: The last paragraph doesn’t flow. You use “fate” in the establishment of the premise, but then you use it in a slightly different context towards the end of the paragraph, and then you contradict your initial statement in the last sentence (with some possibility waffling thrown it to boot).
So, suggestion: This is one of those tricky moments in scene building, you are trying to establish both a character trait and an overarching narrative statement that apparently don’t agree (either it really was fate, or it wasn’t and the character has a fate denial trait) and either the narrator is unreliable, or the character trait you’re setting up should be a “show don’t tell” situation.
So that’s my “pro opinion” to a future fellow pro.
Thank you for saying I’m talented. Most days I feel like a big poser! I agree with you about the last paragraph. It really comes out of nowhere. Makes me so glad I’m doing these exercises! I have such a hard time bringing descriptive passages to a satisfying close.
“Future fellow pro!” LOVE IT! haha, thanks.
I checked out your blog and I have to say that your handle suits you very well. I was immensely charmed by your “Twenty Questions I Almost Didn’t Answer” post!
Dead Charming is a retired blog and a retired nom de plume. I assure you, if I am charming, it is by no means my primary attribute.
Think of me as more of a living, breathing cautionary tale.
More recent “stuff” can be found at http://www.mybadpants.com or http://www.serialstoryteller.com although the latter is also VERY quiet these days.
Will check out the “new” ones tonight! thanks!
A living, breathing cautionary tale: couldn’t that be said of us all?