Character development exercise –
Write a page from a journal in the voice of your character–a main character, or secondary. Might be a character you need to get to know better. Write in first person, just as you would if it was YOUR journal.
Often in keeping a journal the date goes at the top of the page. If you can’t quickly brainstorm a starting point, consider the day and date. Might be a holiday, a particular day of the week, might be a day special or ominous for some reason for the character.
We’re not giving to talking about how we look in our journals–generally!–so don’t worry about describing what the character looks like. Don’t worry about back-story either–that doesn’t find its way into a journal because A) the journal-writer doesn’t expect anyone to ever read the thing, and B) because s/he already know all necessary back-story.
Just a page in length. See what comes of it. At the very least, greater understanding of your character, or insight into their story.
(This writing is all over the place and I’m going to keep editing it over the next few days)
I saw them again, today, when we were driving to the grocery store. My mom had picked me and Thomas, my brother, up from school and she had to buy some things for dinner. Chicken, a green pepper, onions and a blueberry pie. It was Thursday, I didn’t have soccer practice and Thomas wasn’t feeling well so he was skipping out on his guitar lesson with Mr. Eaton. My mom had phoned the school earlier to let them know he wasn’t going to go, he was lugging his guitar to the car like it weighed 100 pounds, the corner of the guitar case kept hitting the ground.
“Pick it up, don’t drag it,” I said.
He huffed out a gigantic sigh, his long hair briefly floating from his brow. We walked the rest of the way silently and my mom asked me why we were fighting as soon as I opened the van door and slipped into the side seat. Thomas leaned his guitar precariously against the back passenger seat and then opened the door to the front. He got car sick, sensitive stomach, so he always got shot-gun. There was no contest, it was just the way things had to be otherwise we’d all endure Thomas retching in the bathroom for a good half hour after every car ride.
“I said, why are you fighting,” My mom asked again. She turned completely around, hanging over her arm rest so she could look me in the eyes to inspect whether we were secretly at each other’s throats or if this was just another “teenager thing”. That’s how she described my moods to my dad. “Don’t call it that,” I’d say. It was so annoying, like being talked about as if I wasn’t even there. No one likes to be called on having a temper when all they want is to be left alone. I was raised to believe that the older I got the more independence I’d get as a trade-off for extra responsibility. Doing chores without being asked to do them, that sort of thing. But it seems like the exact opposite, so many questions day in and day out. Sometimes I wish I had more time by myself. A little more peace and quiet. If it’s not my mom, it’s the teachers, it’s Tracey, my best friend, it’s everyone.
“We’re not fighting,” said Thomas. My mom turned back around and looked at him to see his reaction. He sighed again and placed one hand on his stomach while staring straight ahead. Mentally preparing for himself not to barf. My mom finally turned the key.
“You two need to try harder to get along.”
“Mom, he just said we’re not fighting. Geez.”
I glanced up and caught my mother’s eyes in the rearview mirror. That look shredded me to pieces, I looked down rather than out the window. Down meant my mom knew that I knew I did something wrong. Out the window was a side glance, which secretly meant ambivalence. It’s the wrong cue to give her. It meant more talking, more lectures, more hot eyes.
I shut up and looked out the window. I might have moods but my mom has a stare that can tear a person in half. It’s a super hero mom power. I wonder when I get older whether I will inherit eyes that burn through words and shrugs. My eyes are soft and round, they make me look shyer than I actually am. When I’m walking by myself, I try to look mean. Tracey says I just look skittish. Like a cat, she says, that just got spooked.
I was tired, I was always tired lately. The trees that lines the street became a hazy blur. I couldn’t sleep well lately. I didn’t let my mom know but I stayed up late reading. Nothing worthwhile, but checking other people’s photos on instagram, checking facebook and all of the status updates from my friends at school. All on my phone. My mom said if she caught me online after midnight she’d take my phone away from me. But I’ve gotten tricky. I don’t “like” or “comment” on anything, just slowly glance around at what people are posting. Only my best friends have filtered my mom out of their feeds so I can comment on their stuff if I want. I usually don’t though. I’m not really sure how these sites prevent some people from seeing things and other people are totally blocked, seems like it won’t always work…how could it? So i don’t post anything, but I check to see who liked my photos. Who’s paying attention. Who is thinking about me after midnight when they’re trying to go to sleep, too.
Anyways, I was telling you that it happened again today on the ride to the grocery store. It’s been happening more often lately. I see blurs of people in different places. Only for very quick moments. It’s out of the corner of my eye, sometimes I think it’s wisps of hair stuck in my eyelashes. But the blurs and shadows have too many details, I see them for less than half a second and then they disappear. A week ago it was a girl, caucasian, with her dirty blonde hair in braids. She was wearing overalls, a pink shirt or maybe it was red plaid and blurry. She was leaning against the fence. One knee is up, resting on a fence bar. When I looked back, because I always do a double take, she was gone.
We live in the suburbs outside of Vancouver, in a rural neighbourhood on the edge of the town. Right where the lots start to get bigger. Yards begin to have more acres and some people have horses or cows, goats or even llamas. My house is on 2 acres. We don’t have any big animals but we do have 2 dogs and a cat, outdoor only. My mom grew up on the rez and she said the idea of having a dog sleep on your bed is only something white people do. My mom says this a lot about things. One time I went over to Tracey’s house and I noticed all of the different appliances her mom used to cook dinner. She had a fancy mixing bowl with a blender attached like a crane over top of it. Tracey showed me a milk frother that looked like a tiny version of a sink scrubber only it was attached to a thin metal rod that spun and mixed your milk up so it was bubbly on top. I kind of felt embarrassed that I didn’t know what any of those things were. Tracey took a lot of pleasure explaining each kitchen item and telling me it’s specific name. To the point that when I stopped asking, she began testing me. “What’s this, Ruby? Do you know what this is?” I shrugged and she kept talking. Eventually I went to the washroom and spent a long time in there sitting on the toilet reading the jokes at the back of a women’s magazine. The jokes in those magazines are not very funny and I don’t think it has anything to do with maturity, unless as you get older you progressively get a lame sense of humour. Even my grandma wouldn’t laugh at those jokes. My grandma has taste.
Anyways, when I got out of the bathroom, Tracey was in the living room clicking through netflix on her television.
“Whaddyawanna watch?” She didn’t look up at me, but kept flickering through the tiny squares that were meant to remind you that “so-and-so” starred in what show and a vague idea of what it was about. She clicked through it so fast, it was hard for me to watch and as I glanced over her she stuffed an apple slice in her mouth.
When I got home from Tracey’s that day, I asked my mom why we didn’t have the same appliances as her.
“That’s what white people do. They can’t cook so they buy these expensive things that you don’t need.”
“Actually, Tracey’s mom cooking is really good. Those things are really cool. Wish we had a fancy blender.”
My mom had a big smirk on her face, she liked to make fun of other people’s cooking. She liked to eat, as she said, “native food”. Salmon, rice, beans. Bannock sometimes, dried meat, lots of stews. Lots of the same things over and over again. I don’t really know what a lot of other foods taste like. I hadn’t tried sushi until 2 months ago when Tracy and Rachel dragged me to the sushi place down the street. I had the roll that had fried salmon skin inside of it. It was good. One time I asked my mom whether we could order Thai food so I could see what it was like, instead my mom ordered that Canadian type of chinese food where the noodles are bright yellow and it comes with a big styrofoam container of thick, red sweet-and-sour syrup. I was so mad, I told my mom that this food was so fake and not even close to being real. My dad reminded me that it used to be my favourite when I was a kid. What kid doesn’t like food covered in sweet syrup? Tell me that.
“You get lazy and fat if you use stuff like that all the time. Mix it with a spatula. Nothing wrong with that. That’s how your gradmother taught me, that’s how I do it. That’s how I’ll teach you.”
“Nah, I’m going to buy a blender when I grow up.”
I walked away looking at my phone, checking in to see who liked the picture I posted of a flower twisting through a chain link fence. I had taken it after school. Janelle, Lindsay, Bernadette, Craig (my cousin) and Lee had liked it. In that order.