The instructor (a male, remember) greets everyone and gives them the next assignment.
"We have several published authors in this group and we also have those who aspire to be published. Some of you prefer to write poetry and some of you prefer to write prose.
Today the focus is on characters. Developing believable characters is an important part of writing so today we're going to work on character development. Look around the room. There are seventeen of you, plus me. Each of us has our own individual features and each of us has our own unique mannerisms. The characters you write about in your stories are all fictious....well most are...but I think most writers draw characters from people they've known or have known.
This is your assignment: choose someone in the room and study their features. Study their body language and mannerisms. You might choose me and that's perfectly all right. This is a learning experience.
I'm going to dismiss you now so you can mingle and look for your character. Jot down some notes so you won't forget that twinkle in the eye or the way her hair swings when she turns her head. Actually, you might want to develop one or more characters and have them exchange some dialogue. Put them in a situation. Have them do something.
We'll meet again this evening right after supper and read our responses to the group.
PS. The person you choose to write about will never know unless you tell them.
Members of the message board are involved in a fun workshop for writers. They're given daily assignments and the workshop will last for a week. Below are their entries for Day 2.
One Winter Day: Day 2
By Phyllis Ann (Starbird55@comcast.net)
The second day of our workshop dawned bright and crisp. There still was a light snow
falling, but everyone was gathered in the breakfast room to get their new writing
assignment. The day was to be taken up with a writing challenge. We had to choose someone
in the workshop group, even the instructor if we wished, to write about. I looked around
the room in search of my character, and I decided on an elderly lady with snow white,
perfectly coiffed hair. She was probably about 70 years of age, but in very good shape
for her age. She was very graceful and had that special quality that you see in a person
who has a lot of personality and individualism.
She moved around the buffet choosing her breakfast very carefully. I noticed that she was precise in putting back her serving forks, and so forth. She made sure they were placed on the edge of the plate with the handles carefully pointing out and never touching the food. She didn't lean over the food nor breathe on it. I appreciate that in a person, it shows concern for others. She had on a lovely pink sweater and a gray pair of slacks. The slacks were freshly pressed, denoting the trait of being particular about her appearance. I noticed right away that she was wearing high top boot type shoes that laced up. This I surmised showed that she cared about her health and chose the shoes both for warmth and practicality. You can tell a lot about a woman by observing the shoes that she wears. She had a beautiful pin on the neck of her sweater. It was Gold with tiny pearls, and it was in the shape of a cluster of grapes. It was placed carefully in just the correct place on the sweater. Another trait I admire is neatness and good taste, and she showed them both in her attire and carefully smoothed hair style. Her hands were a bit wrinkled, but you could smell a slight scent of Jergen's hand lotion if you got very close. She was modest, and I never forget the scent of Jergens. It is unlike any other. A frugal choice, not a fancy department store brand.
Her self-manicured nails were short, filed, not bitten. She was not a nervous type. They were polished with clear nail polish. She wore a gold wedding band set with three tiny heart shaped diamonds and a slender gold bracelet. Yes, she had good taste but wasn't extravagant. She had pierced ears and wore delicate, small, pearl earrings with just a smidgen of gold framing each pearl. Her appearance was striking.
I engaged her in a short conversation. She had a soft spoken voice with a very musical laugh when I said something that brought a twinkle to her eye and a smile to her lips which showed a small amount of pink lip gloss. She carefully put down her plate and gave me her full attention. She was an interesting person who also was interested in other people. I was talking to her about the workshop and how much I was enjoying it.
We laughed about the assignment the day before and how she hadn't left the porch and had
written about snow flakes. She had a good vocabulary and used it well. I noticed that she
didn't try to impress with large words, but used colorful expressions. She was delightful
to talk to. Shortly after breakfast, we retired to our rooms to write about the person we
had chosen. I had no trouble writing about such a lovely lady with so many admirable
qualities. I knew if I got to know her a little better we could become friends.
One Winter Day: Day 2
By Sharon (ByGolly25@aol.com)
"Hey! Guess what!"
" I can't imagine what, why don't you tell me."
"Well, I was down at the book store and when I came out...."
"Wait don't tell me I can guess after-all. "
"Yeah right! You couldn't guess your way out of the kitchen."
"Good thing I love you. That type of comment is rather mean."
"Just being my normal self. Besides, you have been hogging my computer lately."
"Well just the same. I can figure out what you were going to tell me just by watching how the kids are acting."
"Our kids are all grown up and moved out. So how are they acting?"
"Not those kids. I meant the kids wrapping themselves around your ankles, trying to peek in that box you are carrying."
"So what is it you think you know?"
"Someone was giving away kittens in front of the book store and you took the whole box full."
"You guessed right. But there aren't too many this time. There are just five kittens.
Take a look, aren't they cute little guys though?"
One Winter Day: Day 2
By Diana Mercedes (email@example.com)
He constantly fiddled with the band of the diamond wring on his left hand betraying a
kinetic personality unused to sitting quietly. An aura of salesman settled around his
starched collar and cufflinks. A tanned and fit neck completed the equation and I
expected him to rise without warning and launch into a pitch for timeshares in Mexico.
He owned his space the way pitchmen do, there was a solidness to him, a physicality his
creased pants and dress shirt could not contain. He commanded attention.
From each precisely trimmed hair on his head down to his mirror shiny italian loafers he
exuded material success and confidence. I wondered if a week of solitude in the
Adirondacks would not bore the cologne right off his chin.
Between ring adjustments, he would glance at the blackberry sitting atop his notebook.
Was he watching stock quotes, reading text messages from a woman, not his wife? He stayed
married for the sake of the children, Jr. and Melissa. Melissa was demonstrating a knack
for salesmanship he wished Jr. would. My imagination was running amock.
We went around the room the first day and introduced ourselves. His name was Ted, he was
42, grew up in Minnesota but moved to California so his father could find work in the
aerospace industry. He graduated from USC was married with two lovely children and always
loved the books Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain.
Not bad choices. Personally, think their books make better movies than books.
He didn’t explain why he came 3,000 miles across the country to attend. They probably
have writing workshops in California that focus on mystery novels. When asked which
Raymond Chandler was his favorite, he response was, “Well, I really don’t have a
favorite, I like all of them.” He deflected reactions to this bland and non-committal
answer with a smile that made his eyes crinkle at the corners and a pair of dimples
deepen, complimenting a cleft chin. The effect was dazzling and made we want buy whatever
it was he was selling.
There was a time when I would have envied him. He would get by on 50% charm and 50%
talent. I could see him hawking mediocre novels on TV while I, average, with an aura that
faded into the background, except on my best days, would have to be the best writer I
could be, before I got noticed.
That was then. Now I enjoy writing for it’s own sake. I have reached a level of
satisfaction. I used to struggle to say what I wanted to say…I could feel the feelings,
but was emotionally stymied, unable to free the words from their frozen pond somewhere
deep in my being.
I had to settle some old scores from childhood before I felt like the words that float
into my consciousnes were worth reading. I am certain Ted never struggled with any
similar self doubts.
Maybe, maybe not. Everyone is human.
One Winter Day: Day 2
By Norma (Twi1ite@sbcgloba.net)
Whew! I barely got down that second cup of coffee and Beresford’s homemade Danish! Now,
think, think. As my eyes travel around the room I see aging Stepford wives, two men, but
there is one particular woman who is catching my eye. Her wrinkled eyes sneakily are
darting to a tall drink of water who looks much like Abraham Lincoln in dungarees and a
red flannel shirt. She has definitely not an ex Stepford. She’s the most interesting
person in the room. She a look that speaks of having experienced life in its pain and
sorrow. She has a hardened look, and you can tell she’s trying to cultivate it with the
thrusting of her chin. She sports a Judi Dench Time Goes By haircut, and I like her. For
through it all I see character and compassion. If I were an injured mouse, without
fanfare at all, she would rescue me, place me gently in a grass-filled box in her garage,
and feed me milk with an eyedropper, cursing about those goll darned mice all the time.
Her name tag reads Lucinda - yes, Lucinda - and I believe she would dress me down royally
if I called her Lucy. For through all the rough shod looks, she bears grace in her
bearing, a natural elegance. Perhaps in her life she was once an heiress who threw that
life away, disowned, but lived on her terms. Yes, I do like her. I wonder why she is
here. I hope she is here to record her autobiographical stories or even a book, and we
all will be richer for it. Watch out, Abe!!
One Winter Day: Day 2
By Cottage Lady (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Susan had slept well in the four-poster bed with its colonial quilt and warm woolen
blankets. Breakfast was served between 8 and 9 am, so she quickly showered, dressed in
black woolen slacks, a white turtleneck and gray sweater, then left for the dining room.
She glanced outside at a white world of blowing and drifting snow and surmised the day’s
activities would be centered indoors. Crackling log fires were already set in the front
foyer and living room.
The dining room held a Mahogany table long enough to seat about 20 people and an equally
long sideboard held an enticing buffet of hot comfort foods, a hearty New England
breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, oatmeal, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs,
hash browns, English muffins, French toast, real maple syrup, fresh fruit, a variety of
yogurts and plenty of hot coffee and tea. While normally not a big breakfast eater, Susan
was hungry and helped herself to some bacon, eggs, hash browns, and an English muffin,
with lots of hot coffee. Looking around, she noted that many other participants seemed to
do likewise. There were more women than men at the workshop, and Susan counted a dozen
women and six men, including the director, in attendance.
The workshop director, Frank, sat at the head of the table, and explained the exercise
for day two. He had led the readings from the evening before in an effective and gentle
manner, asking each participant to comment only on one affirmative element of the reading
just offered. This approach maintained a positive tone and helped everyone to become
comfortable with the process. Frank explained the character development exercise for day
two in which they would concentrate on a description of one individual, and again, would
share their readings after dinner.
Susan went back to her room to pick up her writing journal and her favorite fine blue
ballpoint pen. She went back downstairs to find the other participants either slowly
walking from room to room or settled on a cozy sofa or armchair, many near the fire, and
rather surreptitiously gazing around in an attempt to take stock of their fellow writers.
One woman was curled up in a flannel throw on a window seat apart from the others with
her notebook and pen in hand and gazing out at the white world beyond. The woman was
dressed casually in warm navy blue slacks and a violet/blue cardigan with snowflakes
embroidered on it. She had a sad rather pensive look on her face as she stared outside
and then Susan noticed a gold chain hung around her neck that held two gold bands, one
inside the other, soldered in an lovely and unique arrangement of synchronicity. The
woman, who seemed to feel Susan’s gaze upon her, looked up and smiled, although there was
deep sadness in her eyes. Susan offered what she felt was an understanding nod, smiled
back, and strolled away, not wanting to intrude. She would write about that woman and
think about what her story might be.
One Winter Day: Day 2
By Tom (tomWYO@aol.com)
The instructor said to choose someone in the room, study their features and everything
and write about them. I looked around, two good looking silver foxes, one skinny Minnie a
few tubby ones along with five men who were just old men like me; but no one really
caught my eye or warranted my attention until. I looked at the lady who was setting up
the break food, the one who had set out and served the before class continental style
breakfast and was going to set out small lunch spread. Of course I was sitting over in
the corner and I did not have to look at the speaker, I just listened and all at once I
began to watch this lady. I grinned because, well, let me try to describe her?
The serving lady, oh fifty or so, about five foot three, hundred forty, not too large but
she was carrying that middle aged spread. She was so neat, it was overly impressive.
Deep-set blue eyes, her hair not cut short in that damned despicable man’s style short
haircut but a nice somewhat modified page boy or that skater who everyone copied for
years. Her hair was naturally curly and to me looked nice, nothing special or odd. Her
hands had long fingers, the nails trimmed about even with the end of her fingers, a
barely tinted polish. She wore no rings, only a watch and small silver ear bobs. The
hands were not calloused nor were they gnarled from strenuous labor; rather long thin
fingers indicative of someone who had held a much better and different job.
Her thighs were a little on the large size but commensurate with her hips and the rest of
her body; doubt if she had ever had that wasp waist. Her calves were very trim and she
wore, oh a size six or maybe a size six and a half shoe. Most women in this job wore
sneakers, cheap sneakers of any inexpensive brand, but this lady had on wedge heeled
black shoes. And what caught my eye was they had that tassel you see on very expensive
loafers, especially the ones men wear; and they were polished, not spit shined but
polished and looking very good. The leather looked to me from where I sat to be of very
good quality and very soft leather. She had on hose which also set her apart, not white
anklets and sneakers.
Her nose was not large but prominent while she had two dimples, one in her cheek and one
in her chin. Her cheeks were not large and her eyes had little makeup, just enough to
make her look nice. Her complexion was not pale or ashen but a little tanned.
I began to watch her face and her reactions as soon as I noticed she was always looking
at the dais and was intently listening to the speaker. She was deep into the talk and on
occasions when something I felt was germane or of importance she would repeat it, as I
could see her lips saying the words. I wondered if she wrote poetry or prose and if so
what type did she wrote as I tried to get some idea from her actions and reactions. All
at once the speaker made a comment and her face turned solemn. You could see she was
thinking, deeply thinking as she shook her head no and her lips said words contrary to
the speakers. Then she again intently listened until a big boo boo was made. The speaker
used atrocious grammar and used a double negative, followed by two reverse syntax
statements. She just shook her head, turned and rechecked everything she had done,
completely ignoring the speaker.
She disappeared for about five minutes, returning with a cart with a coffee urn and three
trays of sandwiches. About then a new speaker took the dais and she again began to
listen; only this time she pulled out a small spiral notebook, one like policemen use and
took some notes. Agreeing, disagreeing and then her face turned red and her chin took
this set. I would have sworn she was going to say something as her mouth opened and she
raised her hand. Then quickly she put it down, turned and I could see her body shake. Was
she having a seizure, was something wrong, I thought. In a moment she turned around and
as she turned she pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped tears from her eyes. She was
All at once she looked at her watch, pulled a sheet of paper from her pocket, looked at
it and then busied herself rechecking her own presentation of ‘a light lunch’. Soon the
speaker finished, everyone clapped and lunch was announced. I quickly walked over and
looked at the name on her name tag, “Helen O’Keefe” as I spoke and said she had a very
luscious looking lunch laid out. Her smile and the smooth melodic tone of voice set me
aback. I wished to learn more of this serving lady, for she intrigued me.
One Winter Day: Day 2
By Amy (email@example.com)
One day I met this lady over the backyard fence.she was feeding her two dogs their
breakfast. I was hanging up my laundry.We chatted a few moments than went about our daily chores.
Later i saw her watering her plants and came to find out later it was a passion with her.
she planted a garden in the spring of irises , tuplips, roses and other plants of her
as I was not into gardening , but I loved pets we chatted about cats dogs and the like .
At the time we met I didnt like coffee, so we shared one thing in common: tea.
We chatted over tea many a morning looking out into her lovely garden. We became close
friends and learned much about each other.
She is a wonderful teacher of life's lessons, she likes the water as i do also.
She taught me to think more and slow down and that life is precious .
I am so glad we met over tea and pets and the backyard fence ...
One Winter Day: Day 2
By susi (Texaswishr@aol.com)
Gee, guess I must have slept thru today's workshop and missed the assignment, but, there
is this one person that I remember more than the rest, so i'll go ahead and write about
her and turn it in late. She sat by herself over to one side of the room, not saying
much, if anything, but making notes on her small yellow pad. Rather non-descript, she had
a kind of demeanor that puts people off, I think. She neither encouraged nor discouraged
comments when she asked her occasional, quiet question. She looked to be in her fifties
or sixties, hair rather mouse-colored with just a few silvery strands. She wore what my
mother would have called a "house-dress", cotton print, a waistband, short puffy sleeves
and a pixie collar. I wouldn't have been surprised if she had worn an apron. Her
stockings weren't silk or nylon, but rather had a cottony thickness and her feet were
shod in black sensible shoes. I watched her, her grey plainness conspicuous in the room
filled with bright colored dresses, animated faces and obvious interest in what the
instructor was saying. I sat there glancing over at her and wondered what brought her
here. What does she write, poetry, prose, stories? What is her life like? Is she a
religious person? A wild and crazy gal underneath that quiet demeanor? Gives rise to the
thought, "you can't tell a book by its cover" and I suppose I'll never know just what
story that book holds.
Year's End 2009 (several authors)
Winter Slide Show
The Day After
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