Character Profile

I’ve been going back and forth with myself on whether or not I should post this, because it is part of my current WIP and I don’t want to jinx myself, but I feel like I need the opinions of others.  I have a character profile for one of my MCs and I need to know if it sounds like a real person- not like some cut and pasted character from another book or movie- and if it feels consistent within itself.  All thoughts welcome!


Profile for: Cara Renee Apple
Gender: Female
Race: Caucasian
Age: 25
Birthday: September 1, 1985
Astrological Sign: Virgo
Height: 5’5’’

Weight: 165 lbs


Basic Description: Good straight teeth, but not super special, think but not too thin lips- always wears gloss and chapstick.  Prefers Clinique over commercial brands, shops at Sephora or Nordstroms for makeup.  Has straight nose, not pointed, with slightly rounded tip.  Smooth, naturally tan complexion.  Wears moisturizer and sunscreen every day, washes her face every night, gets a facial twice a year.  Never had freckles or moles, no scars on her face, but ½ inch scar under chin where she fell and cut it on a coffee table when she was 6.  Heart-shaped face.
Hairstyle: dark brown, layered, a little past her shoulders, not thin or thick.  Usually is frustrated by the lack of body and volume.  Always wears it straight or pulled back in a ponytail or low bun.  Doesn’t dye her hair.  Dyed her hair once in high school and it turned bright orange- she’ll never try dying it again.
Eyes: 20-20 vision, dark brown, long, dark lashes but not thick
Body: approximately 30 lbs overweight, C cup breasts, almost a D cup.  hates her body.  tries to work out 2-3 times a week but struggles to motivate herself because she’s never seen weightloss results.  Wears size 10 or 12 depending on the brand.  Size 7 ½ shoe; has become very good at dressing for her body- enhancing her curves and minimizing fat and flab
Marks, Scars, Tattoos: Has a birthmark on her thigh shaped like a distorted flower.  No other scars besides the one on her chin.  No tattoos
Clothing: For work she wears business casual/ suits.  She shops at Ann Taylor Loft but only buys clothes on sale- always looks nice- knows how to dress for her body- wears a lot of black, navy blue, and grey.  On personal time, she sticks to jeans and fitted t-shirts, comfy boots or cute tennis shoes.  Doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry- has a ring from her high school boyfriend which she occasionally wears, but just because she likes it, not really out of nostalgic attachment or residual affection for him


Birthplace: Wilmington, NC- Mom moved girls to the Triangle when she and dad divorced


History: Parents divorced when the girls were 5 and 8.  Mom (Janice) remarried at ages 7 and 10.  Cara looked up to Ashton when they were growing up, but when Ashton graduated high school and moved out of the house, Cara began to look out for herself more- was always independent, but missing Ashton in that brief period solidified it.  Now she acts more like the older sister, taking care of Ashton and helping her out when she screws up.


Home: Lives in Durham- rents a townhouse- 2 bedroom 2 ½ bath.  She’s very neat- pays her bills on time, always hangs her jacket/ coat in the closet when she gets home.  Everything has its place, but she’s not one who freaks out when someone else makes a mess in her space.

Pets: None until Mr. D!

Personality: Very calm, very practical and rational, often told by Ashton to loosen up, but she’s capable of letting loose- just doesn’t around Ashton.  She’s confident in her intelligence and skill as an employee, confident that she is generally right, but not sour when proven wrong. Enjoys a good debate- both being part of one and observing one.  Speaks her mind, but usually softens any harsh judgments/realities.  She can seem cold, pompous to someone who doesn’t know her, but she’s really warm and caring to her friends and family- it just takes a while to get to know her, to get her to open up
Tea, crime dramas and comedies, maps, making lists and checking things off those lists
coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, commercials- especially radio commercials
failure, being in debt forever, losing her mother and sister
to go to law school and be a corporate lawyer for a bank or big company
Reading, taking photos, scrapbooking
Works as a personal assistant to a lawyer @ a prestigious law firm in downtown Durham.  Duties include answering the phone, scheduling appointments and keeping track of his calendar, filing and typing briefs and other documents as well as general clerical work, pre-qualifying clients, and some light research.  Has worked there since graduating college in May of 2007.  Went to UNC, has a degree in business?? and minored in political science.  Decided not to go to law school right out of college because she wanted to work at a law firm first to find out if she still wanted to be a lawyer- also, working for a few years would allow her to save money so she wouldn’t have to work through school or take additional loans out for living expenses.
Favorite Food:
Potato soup
Least Favorite Food:
red peppers
Most Prized Possession:
a ceramic jewelry box given to her by her grandmother (her father’s mother).  She doesn’t keep jewelry in it, though.  She keeps mementos from her childhood: seashells from Wrightsville Beach collected on walks with her parents before they divorced; ticket stubs from favorite movies; photo booth pictures of her and Ashton; her first driver’s license.
Vernacular (Way of Speaking):
Thinks very carefully before she speaks- never stumbles- never says “Um,” “Well,” or “huh.”  Doesn’t use a lot of contractions.  Ashton laughs at her for speaking like she’s got a stick up her ass.  Cara doesn’t use a lot of swear words or make a lot of exclamations.
Character Behavior:
precise- everything she does is done with purpose.  She doesn’t get excited or confused easily.
Easily picks up on any problem and won’t stop until she finds a solution.  Prides herself on her intelligence.
Social and Other Pressures, Problems:
She’s shy in social situations- doesn’t know how to put herself out there to meet new people.  Doesn’t particularly want to meet new people.  Confident in the relationships she already has.
Relationships (With Who and What Kind):
Most important is the relationship with her sister, Ashton.  Though Cara acts like the oldest, she knows she isn’t and has a lot of deference for Ashton when it comes to family decisions (like what to get mom for her birthday).  she loves her sister more than anything in the world and that’s why she often overlooks Ashton’s flakiness and flightiness when she wouldn’t overlook the same qualities in herself or others.

Relationship with her mother is strong.  She values her mother’s opinion and often doesn’t make huge decisions without getting it, even if it differs from her own.

Relationship with her father is strained.  She maintains it through email and the occasional phone call simply because he is her father and she’d feel guilty if she didn’t have some kind of contact with him.  She never forgave him for the divorce, though she doesn’t really understand that this is the reason for their limited relationship.  He has always wanted more, but she has turned down his attempts at closeness.

Relationship with B is growing.  She has a great deal of respect for him- sees a lot of the qualities in him that she wants to see in herself or thinks she already sees in herself- determination, focus, hard working, honest.  She doesn’t see that he has further interest in her other than employee and boss.
Belief, Superstition, Moral Value:
Is not superstitious, but values hard work and honesty above almost anything.  Slightly judgmental when people don’t live up to her high standards.
Positive Characteristics:
She cares very deeply about her family.  She’s a hard worker.  she doesn’t over-react to negative situations, instead looks for the solution; wants to help others when given the opportunity
Negative Characteristics:
Very strict in her ways of thinking, i.e. this is the right way, this is the wrong way.  Needs to be right; can be judgmental; can appear to lack a sense of humor

2011 Writing Exercise

I’ve already blogged about one goal I have for 2011- to write another book.  I’m going to write another book this year, I’m going to write another book this year!


But I have another goal, and one that will hopefully help me reach the goal above.  I’m going to spend at least one hour a week doing nothing but writing.  No laptop and internet, no phone, no ipod, just a pen and a notebook.  I did it this past Saturday and it was amazing.  I’m hoping that eventually I’ll be able to commit to one hour a day, but I know that while I have 2 1/2 jobs, that’s probably not possible.  Eventually, the writing will be all story/novel focused, but this past weekend, and probably for the next several, it will be free-writing, plotting, and character sketching.  Saturday’s hour really helped me tap into the idea I have for my next book and the time produce 12 notebook pages of notes, questions, thoughts, and chronology.


I’m determined that I’ll be focused and prepared when I actually start writing this book.  I want to be in a place where I want to write every moment of the day, a place where I cannot get the story or the characters out of my head.  If this method works, maybe I’ll be able to go back to one of my earlier, unfinished ideas to revamp and finish it.


I’m not going to include any notes about the concept I’m working on right now, because I don’t want to jinx myself, but I found the exercise so cathartic, that I want to share some of what I wrote during the exercise.


I’m sitting in B&N and I’ve decided that for 1 hour, I’m going to write.  It doesn’t have to be fiction, or a story or a poem.  I just need to write to practice.  To get back in the habit.


I’ve set my alarm,  So here we go.


I just checked my spot on the shelf and came across a book only a few authors over called “29.”  The blurb sounded interesting.  I need to add it to my goodreads list.  It’s almost fate-like that I’d see a book with such a similar title in a spot so close to where my book would be if it were published.  But I don’t believe in fate, really.  Because that would mean my sucky life was on purpose or something.


Thinking about the book I’m going to write this year, I feel really connected to MDMD (title withheld for now- sorry!  and no- it has nothing to do with doctors) even though I thought UN (sorry again!) would speak more to me.  I think MDMD just has more plot and character opportunities.  I hope so because I’m about to take the plunge.


I’ve been reading The Weekend Novelist and when it gives tips or advice, sometimes I think about how I would use them on MDMD.  I think I should just go for it.  But I’m going to be prepared.  I can’t just write willy nilly without knowing where the characters are going and who they are.  I think the biggest problem I’ve had in the past is that I didn’t know who the characters were or I had too many of them for them to be unique and real.  Not this time.  I’m going to focus the story on 2 individuals again, but flesh out the personalities and back story of the secondary characters as well so I know who I’m working with.


I need to get a timer so I can shut my phone off while doing writing exercises.


(4 1/2 pages of story-centered notes skipped)


Yay!  another pen just ran out! (I know that seems weird, but I love writing with a pen until it runs out of ink.)


I think the purpose of today’s exercise is to ask all the questions but not come to conclusions.  I’ll make conclusions the nest time I spend an hour doing this.  I wonder if I should share this exercise on my blog.  I wonder how long it will be typed up or if anyone will be interested in reading it.  Should I not give information on the book I’m working on until it’s ready for edit phase?


(and the rest of the pages were all story and character centered)


Does anyone have any suggestions for helpful writing exercises for me?

The Act of Writing

I really love to write.  And I don’t mean the process of telling a story through words recorded on paper (although I do love that), but I mean the actual ACT of writing itself.  I love the feel of a pen in my hand, love moving it across a piece of paper to form letters, words, sentences, paragraphs.  I love seeing my handwriting fill up a page, making something that was once pure and clean messy and complicated, but so much more valuable.

Sometimes, before I began writing fiction and poetry, I would feel this urge to pick up a pen and just write, though often I didn’t have any purpose, so I didn’t write anything at all.  I still get those impulses now.  I’ll be sitting at work and will have a few slow moments and in my head, suddenly, the desire will strike.  I’ll wish desperately in the moment that I could pull out my notebook and form words across the page, even if I don’t say anything.

There’s something so immensely satisfying about flipping through my full notebooks, seeing my familiar writing.  No one in the world writes exactly like me.  When I write lowercase “g”s I’m often going so fast that I don’t form a complete loop at the top.  And my uppercase “I”s are often written in such a hurry they could be mistaken for “N”s if the page was turned 180 degrees.  And there are a million other things about my handwriting that when combined mean I’m the only person in the world to write like I do.

I think that is amazing.

I wonder now if my love of the Act of writing led me to write fiction.  Was that a direction I was always headed in and I didn’t know it?  Were my diligent note-taking skills in high school and college just precursors to the notebooks that would one day carry my heart and soul on their pages?  Were the urges to pick up a pen I felt for twenty-four and a half years before writing Twenty-Five trying to tell me my destiny?

That I really should be a writer?


Lua posted an interesting exercise on her blog a few days or weeks ago, I can’t be sure exactly which.  It goes along really well with these thoughts, so here it is:

The Rules:

Write down the following, snap a picture (or scan the document), post it, and tag others.

1.Name/Blog Name.
2. Right handed, left handed or both?
3. Favorite letters to write?
4. Least favorite letters to write?
5. Write: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
6. Write in caps:
7. Favorite song lyrics?
8. Tag 7 people.
9. Any special note or drawing?

I love my handwriting, even if I'm the only person able to read it!

I wrote this down in the actual notebook I’m carrying around at the moment, where I write whenever I get a chance.  It has random chapters and short stories and pieces of poetry along with driving directions and notes from classes and seminars and meetings about weddings.  I love my notebook.

Note: I didn’t do #8- tagging people.  I’m not really sure how that works on a blog.  I mean, I know how to add tags to each post, but does it mean I should link to these people’s blogs?  And disclaimer on #7- favorite song lyrics- I actually just wrote down the lyrics playing at the moment I got to that step!  Sorry, I guess I don’t have one song or set of lyrics that sticks out enough for me to call it a favorite.

2 Things. No, 5 Things. Well, Really 10 Things.

Sometimes I like to read the Tag Surfer on writing and come across very interesting blogs. This week, I found 2 I really enjoyed.

The first is A Broken Laptop, by Mercedes.  I clicked on Mercedes’s blog initially because it had a picture of a cute guy- pathetic, I know.  But my last experience with Religious Guy did not turn out so great, so my interest in CUTE guys has expanded.  Okay, moving back to the point.  The post with the cute guy was about a contest Mercedes and said cute guy (whom I will now refer to as Scottish Simon- because Simon is his name and he is Scottish and I like alliteration- wait, did I use “whom” correctly there?) are engaging in.  She has to finish a chapter a week and he has to write 5,000 words a week.  If one of them completes their goal and the other doesn’t, Completer is declared the winner for the week and gets a reward.  This week Mercedes won and her reward: posting a picture of Scottish Simon’s tattoo on her blog on Monday.

While I love cute guys and absolutely ADORE cute guys with tattoos, that is not the actual reason this post intrigued me.  I really like the idea of competing with someone else to achieve goals.  Because, let’s face it, I’m a fierce competitor (just ask Religious Guy about our game of Rummy or “Say the First Thing that Comes to Mind” or the other game we played that I can’t remember the name of right now) and an over-achiever (just ask anyone I went to high school with).  I need some kind of stimulus to work on TDE.  It’s coming along very slowly.  I don’t think I can start any kind of competition until May, though, because I have 2 weddings in April.  Soooooo… Anyone want to have a writing competition with me?  I’m not sure what my goal will be yet, but I’ll think of something.  Sadly, should I lose, I have no tattoo for the winner.

One other aspect of Mercedes’s blog that really intrigued me was her “Writers in Masks” series.  She features a writer a week with a blurb/link to their blog/publishing credits along with a photo of the writer in a mask of their choosing.  I found it really interesting that the masks all seemed to match the writer’s blurb in some way, either the tone or their preferred genre and style of writing.  It made me think about what my own mask would be.  I have one picture from my sister’s wedding that I like, I’m covering my face with both hands and I think that matches my writing pretty well.  I tend to hide myself behind my writing, i.e. behind my hands (since those are the instruments I use to write).  What kind of mask represents you and your writing?  Check out Mercedes’s blog for more info on how to become one of her “Writers in Masks.”

The second blog I found was The Adams Zone.  This post was all about learning from the mistakes we make as writers, but also learning from our successes.  Linda listed five things she would do differently when working on her next project, based on her previous experience in writing a novel.  She also listed five things she would do again because they worked the first time.  I found this to be a wonderful exercise, at least, I found the idea of it wonderful.  So I’m going to try it for myself.  As mentioned above, progress on TDE is going really slowly.  And TDE is not the first project I’ve attempted since finishing 25.  I haven’t really sat down to examine what worked for me on 25 and what didn’t work on the projects I haven’t finished.  I think if I do, I may be able to identify why it was so easy to “finish” 25 and so difficult to finish anything else.  And I use finish in quotation marks, because a book is never finished until it makes it to the bookshelves, and even then changes can be made between printings.  (Yes, I’m being optimistic here with the hope that my book is going to be so popular it will go through multiple printings during my lifetime. HA!)  I’m going to change the exercise slightly and just list ten things I’ve learned work (or don’t work) for me.

Here there are, 10 Things

1.) Writing Chronologically– This doesn’t work for me.  While writing 25, I always wrote whatever scene came to mind, never worrying about where it went in the book.  This actually CREATED the chronology for me without having to outline right away because main events  put smaller scenes into perspective.  I learned what had to come BEFORE such-and-such happened and it was easy to imagine what would come after.  I tried to write my NANO project, Anita’s Dream Diary, in chronological order.  It sucked.  The first chapter was great, but it all went downhill after that because I didn’t really know where the story was going.

2.) Outlining– This works for me, but only AFTER I’ve started writing.  I wrote my first 25 outline after I wrote half the book.  I wrote my first TDE outline after I wrote about 10K words.  Again, neither of these works were written chronologically.  I tried outlining The First Mermaid after only writing two chapters, but it just made me feel stuck.  I didn’t want to continue working on the story.

3.) Critiquing– Getting reviews from other writers and readers is great.  But I’ve discovered I need to wait until the work is in final first draft stage to start asking for help.  I mean, it needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end that flow cohesively together before I start asking people to tear it apart.  I’ve tried getting critiques as I write and they just make me want to cry and trash the whole work.  I’m not encouraged to continue working on writing the rest of the book because so many flaws are found in Chapter 1.  Flaws need to be fixed, yes.  But not if that means you stop writing altogether.  For me, editing is stage two.  I’ll use reviews and critiques once the entire story has been written down.  It feels like progress is being made when I can sit down and edit several chapters as once, rather than trying to make chapter 1 perfect before moving on to chapter 2.

4.) Critiquing– Yes, it gets a second point on the list.  Critiquing is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.  Readers can find flaws in your work that you overlook.  They recognize plot holes, typos, cliches, everything and anything that you don’t want to survive before an editor sees it.  I planned on stopping 25 at a certain point.  My reviewers made me realize that the end of the story I originally envisioned was NOT the end of the story.  The book is SO much better now because of critiques.

5.) First Drafting by Hand– I’ve mentioned this several times.  My first drafts suck.  I mean really suck.  But, by handwriting them first, I get a second shot at my first draft when I type it.  My thoughts and ideas flow more easily when I have a pen in my hand than when I am typing.  I even write a good portion of my blog posts by hand first.  Not all of them, but at least half.  After finishing 25, I started typing almost all of my other ideas first and found that I got stuck at around 10-16K words.  25 was at least 75% hand-written before I typed a single word.  I had 60K words without even realizing it.

6.) Writing for Me25 is the love story I want for myself.  I wrote it because I was sick and tired of having nothing good going for me.  I wrote it for me.  When I started other projects, they weren’t really for me.  They weren’t really ideas I felt a strong personal connection to.  From now on, I’m going to write stories that I will enjoy, forget the rest of the world.  Because if I like them, then I’ll put more work and effort into them, more passion and heart.  And hopefully the world will like that.

7.) Simple Plots25 is a simple plot with complex characters.  It is based in reality.  I think I did this very well.  My attempts at complicated intricate plots really didn’t work.  I think I have more talent for bringing out the emotions in characters than in putting them in a series of impossible situations.

8.) First Person POV– I think this is the most natural voice for me to use.  When I’m intending to write in third person, I find myself slipping into first.  It’s so much easier to express the characters feelings when I am in first person.  25 was written completely in Abby’s first person perspective, then on second draft revisions, I added in Ben’s first person perspective, which resulted in a much fuller, deeper story.  I’m using both first and third for TDE, but every time I start writing a character’s scene who is supposed to be in third person, I start writing in first without thinking about it!  I have to go back and change everything!  But, I’m not giving up on third person completely.  I think it is one of the things I should really work on mastering, even if I end up writing in first person for every other project I ever do.

9.) Character Description (Physical)– This is something I don’t do very well.  I think it is because when I’m reading a book someone else has written, I often hate their descriptions of the way the characters look.  I always picture the character differently in my own head.  So, when I write, I want to leave character descriptions open so that the reader can picture the character however they want.  I’ve found though, for the most part, that my readers haven’t liked this.  They want at least a little physical description.  That’s why I was doing the writing exercises over the past two weeks.  In 25, I’m going to actually have to go back and add in more description for some of the minor characters.  There’s several that I never describe at all!  I need to go back into TDE and add in some for a good majority of the characters, as well.  Whew, lots of work ahead of me!

10.) Unnecessary Words– There are certain words I use way too much: THAT, JUST, HAD, WELL, and “I MEAN” are my biggest offenders.  I don’t even realize I’m using them until someone points it out.  Every time I read through a draft (of anything I’ve written) I will find new examples of these unnecessary words.  A good portion of my editing is taking them out and adjusting sentences to make them sound better without them.  I really don’t know why I use the word “just” so often, but it’s like a big glaring red flag anytime I sit down to edit.  I see it ALL over the MS.

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.

Day 3 of the Writing Exercise

My third attempt at creating character description without dialogue.  My intended focus here was Emmy, but things kinda got away from me.  Now I’m worried that these exercises are encouraging “telling” as opposed to “showing.”  Although, part of me doesn’t really care if that’s the case because I hate the show vs. tell rule.  Well, I did until I started reading The Wings of the Dove by Henry James.  Now I totally get why showing is better than telling.  If you’ve read even the first page of that book, you’ll know what I mean.  I’m only finishing it because I spent money buying it and feel like I have to or I might as well have trashed the $10 bucks I spent.

Anyways, all thoughts on this exercise welcome.  I think tomorrow I’m going to focus on a character from a book I actually intend to finish writing, The Death Effect.  I know the excitement is killing you…

Emmy was the most beautiful child Aribelle had ever seen.  She wasn’t just cute- she was absolutely gorgeous.  She had thick, curly blonde hair with just a hint of red undertone.  Aribelle could tell it would darken as she got older and eventually match her father’s.  But instead of grey eyes, Emmy’s were bright blue, wide, and sparkling with long blonde eyelashes.  She had the prettiest plump little lips and to-die-for dimples on her chubby cheeks.  Aribelle adored her instantly.

And she adored watching Tom interact with his daughter.  They laughed and teased and tickled one another.  She had never pictured him as the father type, but seeing him with Emmy, she wondered what else she’d been wrong about.

Of course, if she asked him about it, she’d find out she wasn’t entirely wrong.  At any point before Emmy was born, Tom would have said he didn’t like kids and never wanted any.  He and Julia agreed that they didn’t want a family.

Emmy was a blissful accident.

But, even during the pregnancy, Tom had doubts.  He never believed he could be a good father or love any child, even one of his own.

It only took a second, though, for him to fall madly in love with Emmy.  The nurse handed her to him, all pink and new, and he’d never felt an emotion so powerful.  He couldn’t even name the feeling- it was too overwhelming, too all-consuming, to be described by the simple word “love.”

Loving Emmy made him love Julia even more and Julia claimed the same was true for her, but things still fell apart.  Not because of Emmy.  No problem in this world could stem from such an angel, all smiles and laughter as she was.  But Emmy couldn’t help the situation, no matter how much they tried to grow their relationship around her.  Love wasn’t enough.  Tom didn’t think it ever could be.

Am I Getting Any Better?

Okay, my next attempt in the writing exercise to work on character description.  How am I doing?

Tom Witherspoon was no one special back in high school, unless Aribelle’s love made him special.  He wasn’t short and he wasn’t tall, he wasn’t ugly and he wasn’t handsome, but Aribelle loved him.  He was the kind of guy you had to get to know to love, and once Aribelle got to know him, she couldn’t get enough of him.  He was funny in a subtle way, one really had to think about what he was saying and realize the irony.

Aribelle’s friends didn’t get the appeal, but it didn’t matter, because once she made up her mind, there was no changing it.  And she adored his grey eyes and strawberry blonde hair.  He just wasn’t like the other guys- that’s what she liked the most about him.

He scheduled the appointment at the salon because his mother kept harassing him about his long hair.  She complained that he was never going to meet anyone else if he looked like a hobo.  Of course, after his five-year marriage ended, he wasn’t exactly looking for a new relationship.  He had his hands full enough with Emmy, his three-year old daughter, and learning how to cook, clean, and pay bills for himself all over again.

The marriage hadn’t been bad.  It just hadn’t worked.  After Emmy’s birth, things became strained.  Julia felt more and more tied down and began to resent Tom’s “free-spirited” existence.  He could never figure out where she got the idea that he lived a “free-spirited” existence, but stopped arguing the point after a while.  He finally supposed that the fact that he left every morning to go to work and she was “stuck” at home every day with the baby gave her the idea that he could go off gallivanting with his friends whenever he felt like it.

Now she was working again and Emmy spent the day with one of her grandmothers.  Tom had her for two weeks straight, then Julia had her for two weeks.  It was the easiest and best solution for the time being, but Tom worried when Emmy reached school age that the constant moving back and forth would cause problems.   Julia never wanted to talk about that, even though kindergarten was only a year and a half away.

Writing Exercise

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!