Incorporating the Exercise

Alright, so I took my writing exercise and used it to expand a character and chapter of TDE.  Yes, there is dialogue here, but I think I managed the description and character building fairly well.  Let me know what you think!

Chapter Ten: The Girl Who Died

I remember the day I really noticed Jax for the first time.  We’d been in classes together every other year or so since pre-school, but didn’t become friends until fifth grade.  We shared a table that year because Tasha Moore moved over the summer, putting Jax Nathanson right behind me in the alphabetical order.

During the second week of school, our teacher Mrs. Klein told the class about family trees.  “You connect married people with a bold dash and their children with another bold dash.”  She demonstrated on the chalkboard then asked us to fill in the names of our parents and siblings on the blank chart she’d passed out at the beginning of the lesson.

I carefully wrote in my parents’ names using all caps, G-E-R-I, D-O-N-N-Y, and my sister’s, T-A-Y-L-O-R and was just about to write my own when Jax’s arm shot up beside my head.

“Mrs. Klein?”

“Yes, Jax?”

“What about adopted kids?  Do they go on the tree?”

The teacher approached our table and knelt in front of Jax.  “Well, adopted kids are part of the family, too, aren’t they?”

Jax shrugged his shoulders.  “I guess.”

“Of course they are.  So you use a big dash to connect them, too.”  She patted his hand before walking away to answer another student’s question.  Jax still didn’t write anything on his chart.

His conversation with Mrs. Klein ran on a loop in my head, my pencil frozen on top of the paper where L-I-S-A was supposed to go.


That was the word for kids like me, but I’d never really known it until that moment.  I remembered very vividly the day my mother explained why Taylor looked like her and I didn’t, but somehow I’d never connected the dots.

Leaning across the desk, I whispered, “Are you adopted?”

Jax didn’t even turn his head to look at me, just nodded and continued staring at his blank chart.

“Me, too.”

That got his attention.  “Really?”



“Whaddya mean?”

“Why were you adopted?  My real mom died when I was five.  I was a foster kid for a while, but these people just adopted me.  I guess they’re my mom and dad now.”  He didn’t sound very happy about having new parents.  But it made sense.  I wondered if I’d been happy when I got my new parents.

“My parents have always been my parents,” I said slowly, realizing it was true.  My real parents gave me up, didn’t want me.  “They adopted me when I was a baby, I don’t know why.”


I looked back to the chart in front of me.  I didn’t know why I was part of my family, but I knew I was.  Pressing down finally, my pencil formed the letters of my name.  I drew the line between myself and my parents as bold as possible.  Jax’s chart remained empty.

“Alright, class, settle down.  Your homework for tonight is to fill in the spots for your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  There are questions on the back of the sheet for you to ask your parents.  Tomorrow everyone will tell the class a little about their family.”

Jax immediately balled his paper up and stuffed it into his backpack.  He didn’t give a presentation the next day.

He completely fascinated me: I watched him after school, studying his face.  His dark brown hair had been shaggy when we first started school, but by the time we became friends, it had been shaved closed to his head.  The shade of his eyes matched his hair almost perfectly and he had beautiful tan skin.  His face was actually rather plain, a straight nose and square jaw, but he was still nice to look at.

The thing that fascinated me the most about Jax was seeing him with his new parents.  I was sitting on a bench outside of the school the same day as our family tree presentations, waiting for my mom to pick me up, when Jax and his parents exited the building.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  He actually looked like them!  His new father had dark hair shaved close to his scalp and his new mother had a square jaw.  He looked like he belonged to them, but he hated belonging to them.  I loved belonging to my parents, yet I didn’t look like them.

I found out a few weeks later that his new dad was in the army and that’s why he shaved his head.  He shaved Jax’s a month after the adoption was final.  Jax hated him.

It was a weird thing to have in common, being adopted, but it was nice to have someone who knew what it was like when my parents just didn’t get me.  Not that it happened often for me, even though it happened all the time for Jax, but it was still nice.

He was my best friend.

8 thoughts on “Incorporating the Exercise

    1. Thanks Ann! I’m really glad you liked it. I still think it needs to be expanded a bit, it’s not quite chapter length yet, but I figure I always ADD during the editing process, so it will get there.

  1. Having not read this before, it works very well for “new eyes” too.

    I’d say you’re certainly taking the lessons from your exercises and turning them into practical improvements.

    1. thanks! I just finished reading your “Confession of a Normal Guy” on the deadcharming site- fantastic. I have absolutely no experience with men and it gave me some faith that there are some good ones out there.

      1. Thanks, I’m particularly proud of that post. I needed something funny after the one posted before it, and the end result was both honest and (apparently) amusing.

        I’d like to believe there are still “good ones out there” too. Next time I see one, I’ll send him your way; and will he ever owe me…

  2. I really like this. I think your technique is definitely improving. Using the charts as a way to compare/contrast the way the two characters feel about being adopted is fantastic.

    Given the build up and the context, this paragraph really says it all: “Jax immediately balled his paper up and stuffed it into his backpack. He didn’t give a presentation the next day.”

    I also like the last line, but it throws me off a little because most of the narration seems to be discussing them before they became friends and then all of a sudden “he was my best friend.” I think something like “he became my best friend” would make more sense to me. But that’s more a judgment call than anything else and it’s the only thing in there that I only kind of like. Everything else, I like very much.

    I approve. Well done!

    1. thanks!! I see what you mean about the last line. I do need to expand the chapter a little more so maybe I’ll go into their relationship growing and where it stood at the time of Lisa’s death.

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