I am determined to catch up with the Teachers Write! author-generated writing prompts. Yesterday’s challenge came from guest author Melanie Crowder whose debut novel, Parched was one of Bank Street’s Best Books of the Year and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second book, Audacity, has received three starred reviews and is an Editor’s Choice at BookBrowse and a Top Pick from BookPage. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to find inspiration from a published author.
Pick one character, and one image connected with that character. Either as you rewrite an existing scene, or as you draft a new one, bring that image with you. Use it when you describe your character or when it’s time for a metaphor to reveal your character’s emotion, and hey—if all else fails, throw that object into the scene with them and see what happens.
To get started, if you haven’t already, draw up some sketches for a few of the characters in your story. I don’t mean actual drawings; brief descriptions will do. (What they look like, their hobbies, their habits, their flaws, their nervous tells.
Milica Sekulic via Compfight
Eyes float over my existence
First impressions are impressionless
Despite the bronze badge that states otherwise
I am nameless, faceless, useless — to you
Clattering dishes litter my slow-moving cart
A uniformed, puckered, splotched obstacle in your path
Arthritic knees scream in silent protest
You refuse to meet my grey-blue eyes
Judging my sweat-tinged, curling silver hair
Viewing my pained shuffle as an inconvenience
My sturdy brown Rockports as fashionless
How dare you
I am as priceless as the heirloom pearls
regally encircling my aging neck
A peacock-proud mother of five grown men
A recent widow of a 47-year love affair
A lifelong churchgoer who knits baby blankets
for infants like the one in your protective arms.
I am an unbreakable string of indelible life experiences
perfectly, delicately, lovingly woven together.
Before I wrote the poem, here’s what I jotted down as my list of potential character details (based on my previous night’s observations at Panera). Obviously, I didn’t use them all. I’ve spent about 45 minutes on this poem, which is all I have today because there’s another writing prompt to conquer. I hope that if you’re reading this, you’re enjoying this writing camp as much as I am! If you’re a middle-school English teacher, let’s connect!
- middle-aged women, in her early sixties, about five foot two if she didn’t slouch a little
- works at local chain bakery, cleans up after customers
- wears cornflower blue short-sleeved golf shirt with bronze name badge on her left chest
- khaki pants, a little baggy around the waste and bottom
- brown leather shoes, probably Rockport or another walking-friendly variety
- short, gray wavy hair that curls up around the edges of the matching cornflower blue visor
- gray-blue eyes looking downward as she performs her duties
- simple but class pearl necklace around her neck; single pearl stud earrings
- more shuffling than walking, seems to be lost in thought
- no eye contact with any customer; works silently as customers unload their dishes and trash into the marked bins
- hobby – knitting silently while watching Steve Harvey’s talk show
- habit – rubbing pearls between thumb and index finger when lost in thoughts, also dipping her right to an unknown beat–a tick she picked up from her mother