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Playing Around with a Story Line in Different Literary Genres
Hi there Writers and Readers,
Writing Leap #11 THE CHARACTER SKETCH
The character sketch in writing is like the quick first strokes of a finished portrait in painting. They both contain some quality that evokes the person inside. But not their whole story.
Character sketches are like a moment caught in a snapshot. We don’t tell the character’s history. We provide little glimpses of who they are; a raised eyebrow, a guffaw in response to something. We decide what we want the reader to feel about our character and single out the particulars that will evoke that feeling.
New Story Line
When We Discover Something that Sparkles
Play loose with the story line. It can be a discovery of a person, a feeling, an ah-hah moment, a rare wildflower–anything that makes your imagination sizzle.
So how about showing your great aunt Nellie scolding you with a wooden spoon or your employer responding to your idea? Or, stretch and try a fictionalized character sketch of yourself! All could be discoveries that sparkle with truth.
Travis noticed Julie the moment her head appeared at the top of the stairs to the barn loft where the fiddles were hot and the barn floor sighed with the rhythm of cowboy boots and sneakers stepping lively to the music. He finished his beer and executed some wild fancy moves with two giggling little girls.
He popped open another beer, his third, and glanced over at Julie. She sure looked different from the girls around here. Same jeans, but different. His guess? New York.
“Hi,” Julie said.
“How ’bout a beer, though you look like you’d rather champagne.”
Travis led her to a corner table, tipped back his chair against the stud wall and at the same time tipped his hat back on his head. He poured Julie her beer, slowly.
“So what brings you to Colorado?” Travis said.
“What makes you think I’m not from here?” She grinned. “New York.”
Travis gave himself an “I nailed it” for that one.
“I’m an artist,” she said. “I’ve just accepted a teaching job at the elementary school.”
“An artist. Well now. Don’t know anything about art.”
“So what do you do, or does your hat give you away?” Julie said.
He took in that she leaned closer to him. He wondered if she saw the gray in his short brown hair, his wind burned ruddy skin. He knew he looked younger from a distance.
“Well I’ve been moving cattle, raising and baling hay, branding and castrating cows since I was seven, if you’re asking me am I a cowboy.
“Are you a horse whisperer?”
“Hell no, I just do my job is all. But tell you what. Your seat looks to me like it would fit just fine in a saddle. Let me give you lesson.” Travis leaned in too.
“You’re assuming I know nothing about horses,” she said.
Was she piqued? Naw. Flirting is what she’s doing.
“Well I’m right, aren’t I?” He grinned.
Julie grinned back.
Travis talked for hours about his favorite horse he had to put down, his lonely stints up in the moutains tending cattle and fighting coyotes, all the while taking in the expression on her face. He was charming her all right.
In the weeks that followed Travis convinced Julie to move in with him in his log cabin on the creek. He was surprised and happy she really wanted to.
But as time went on he didn’t get that Julie couldn’t let go of her first impressions of him. Why did she keep at him to be the dancing, talkative Travis of that night at the barn dance? He’d had five beers after all. Didn’t she know by now that he’s not one for long conversations? Her latest name for him was Mr. Taciturn. Well, that’s just his nature. Shouldn’t be tampering with one’s true nature.
Have fun with your character sketch!
LINKING THE ARTS
Classic Character Sketches
Character Sketches from Dickens, Illustrated by Harold Copping. Introduction by Kate Perugini, Charles Dickens daughter. (out of print)
Did you ever “see” fictional characters walking around? I have seen chubby Mr. Pickwicks and scouling Wackford Squeers (the worst of the meanies) all over the place. It always makes me laugh.
A Good Strong Word
unearth as in discovery
To unearth truth in one’s writing is like participating in an elusive, difficult archeological dig. But does anything else about writing matter as much? Jewels are uncovered and make our writing souls sparkle.
Character Sketch Drawing
It’s all about the beard, don’t you think?