Vision: A Resource for Writers
ike many writers in college, I enrolled in a creative writing class to improve my skill and get an "easy A." However, this class became a challenge from the moment I walked through the door. The teacher, a young poet with a Masters in poetry, walked in with a phone book clutched in her hands. Just a phone book. She set it down on her desk, opened it and began tearing pages from it as the last of the students filed into class.
everyone was seated, several pages filled with a cascade of names and numbers
were given to each of us. "Take out a blank sheet of paper and a pen.
This is called character building through setting." She
smiled, "A somewhat roundabout way of doing it.
Pick a first name and a last name from the pages I've given you and fill
your page with information about that person."
Character creation. I can
handle this. So I picked a name,
trying to make him as interesting as possible -- I had several Smith pages after
all -- and began jotting down little things about my character.
I wrote down his hair color, his eye color, height, weight, age,
education, everything I could think of, and before I knew it my page was full
and the teacher was telling us to put down our pens.
then told us to get out another blank sheet of paper and said that this was
where we build our characters. We
had to write a page length description of the room in which our characters
lived. Where the person lives would tell us much about her life.
She smiled somewhat deviously this time when she told us that our
character couldn't be present in the room.
A story with no characters?
stared at my blank page, then back at the page I had filled full of information
about the character. All that
information I had written down told me little about who he really was and what
sort of room he had. Would he be
cleanly? A slob?
A teenager up on all the latest technology? Or a wizard who blew up electronic devices just by walking by
teacher dismissed class and I drove home thinking about my character.
It wasn't until I walked into my own bedroom that I realized I could do
it. CDs covered my stereo stand,
posters on the wall, computer blaring with a white screen; these things
reflected my personality. I had a
character. He was young, lonely,
living in poverty. His world danced
with wonderful creatures like faeries, elves and dragons. So his world wasn't so great.
He spent most of his days locked away in a tower, carving pictures in the
stone walls. But wait...
on the walls. Perhaps my character
hoped to someday be free and the pictures were drawings of the time he would be?
Maybe a simple leather blanket would be enough to make him happy as it
warded off the evening chill. And
from the single small window he could look out and watch the faeries play
outside in the sunlight and smile, knowing someday he'd join them.
I began to write. I knew my
character now like no one else, all because I knew where he lived and how he
lived in the same way that I know where I live and how I live.
The room reflected the story of his life, his goals, and his dreams.
Short and to the point, one page about an empty room taught me more than
a thousand pages of character description ever could.
And guess what? I got an A
on that one.
to Professor Cullen Bailey Burns
Room by Melissa S Born