Tag Archive | writing exercise

Driving with the Top Down

I belong to a small, informal writer’s group which meets every Wednesday.  We have a weekly writing prompt and the one for yesterday was ‘open windows’.  Since spring is in the air, I got to thinking about some of the crazy stuff we did as kids to celebrate spring.  Some of the following is true, some is from my spring fed imagination.  Dellani

 

 

It was a lovely, sunny day in early spring of 1976. I gazed out my window with a smile, glad that the air was a balmy 50 degrees, the vast expanse of the west Nebraska sky was blue, the wind was blowing, the snow had melted. Perfect day for a drive!

The Christmas break of 1975 had been pretty grim and gloomy, sporting the worst blizzard in nearly a century. We laughingly called it Bi-Centennial Blizzard and teased one another that we were reenacting Valley Forge as we tromped around town. Cars were iced in, roads impassible, people were going to work on cross country skis. I couldn’t remember a time I had been so cold!

But today it was officially over. The weather man said it was supposed to be warm and sunny all week. Since it was Saturday morning, my friends and I decided to go for a drive. Jeff had a convertible and could be persuaded to go for a long drive given the right incentive of gas money and a Pepsi. Ever the instigator, I gave him a call.

“Jeff, hi!”

“Hi! What’s up?”

“Not a lot. I was thinking it’s such a pretty day, why don’t we get some people and go for a ride.”

“I don’t have any gas.”

“We’ll take a collection and buy some.”

He wiffled and waffled a moment, then agreed. It helped that he liked me. I could usually get what I wanted with very little effort. What I wanted was to go for a ride in his rattletrap old convertible with the top down. The car would now be considered a classic. Back then, it was a dented up old piece of crap Pontiac with faded paint and no air conditioning.

Fifteen minutes later, Jeff pulled up at my house. I said goodbye to my mother and dashed out the door with my jacket, scarf, warm hat and mittens. It might be warm standing in the sun, but riding in a convertible in 50 degree weather got cold!

Jeff’s best friend, Danny, was sitting up front. He got out and gallantly let me slide in the middle. That was another condition. I had to sit next to Jeff. We made three more stops picking up other people to go for a ride. We pooled our money, filled Jeff’s gas tank, bought him a can of Pepsi and took off to the lake about 30 miles away.

Part of the fun of driving with the top down was how many people we managed to fit into that crummy old tank of a car. Three of us up front, four in the back and three who sat on back of the back seat. Once the top was down, it formed sort of a semi-circle of metal and heavy fabric – or maybe it was vinyl. Only the very brave sat there because going sixty down a back country highway in a convertible isn’t the safest thing in the world. If our mothers had only seen us!

Once we got out of the city limits, Jeff shoved his Black Sabbath “Paranoid” tape in the tape deck. He cranked up “Iron Man” and took off. We made the drive to the lake, looped around it and headed back to town. Our celebration of spring was almost complete. The last stop was the Dairy Queen where we all sat down and had a tall, frosty glass of limeade. Nothing like freezing yourself inside and out!

I never will know why the cops didn’t stop us for doing something so dangerous and so incredibly dumb! I guess it was the luck of the insane. That may have been quite a few years ago, but I will never forget driving with the top down.

Creating a Character Sketch

Writers new and old sometimes have trouble finding a place to start. We are full of all kinds of ideas, and jot them down in an effort to keep track of them. Getting these ideas into a cohesive whole can be trying. As an A.P. English teacher, I had to take high school students into the unstable world of creative writing. It was a scarey trip for all of us! I used several exercises both for these journeys and for less creative projects.

One thing I had them do was a character sketch. Sometimes the character was from a book we were reading, others were character types I gave them and they had to write a description. I do not claim to be an expert at anything but my own little world, but I have found a few ways to get fourteen through seventeen year olds to write. I’ve incorporated the same exercises for myself, so I know they work for adults as well.

Pick a character you want to develop but are having trouble getting hold of:

Start by giving him or her a name.

Decide on his age.

Hair color. (Include facial hair)

Eye color.

Skin type and color.

What he wears.

What he carries.

His voice and manner of speaking.

Does he have pets? Do animals even like him?

Does he live alone? Where does he live?

Is he healthy?

Is he a good person or an evil one?

Does he like people or does he shun their society?

How does he travel?

Habits

Example:

Tom the Magician -all right it’s not very creative, but he’s got a name! None of this is written in stone. A better name can be given to him later.

Age: He is ancient.

Hair color: His hair is pure white and he has a long white beard.

Eyes: His eyes are piercing blue.

Skin type & color: His skin is pale and like parchment.

Clothing: He wears a black woolen robe that is in tatters.

What he carries: He carries a gnarled staff.

Voice: His voice is a deep baritone. He tends to stutter.

Does he have pets: He has an old Greyhound and an Irish Wolfhound who share his cave.

Does he have family: He has no family.

Where does he live: In a cave in the mountains.

Health: He doesn’t take care of himself and tends to cough a lot.

Good or Evil: He’s a good man, but not a terribly good magician. He has a bad memory and makes mistakes in his spells.

How does he travel: He doesn’t travel because he’s made himself so unpopular with his botched spells that he doesn’t dare go far from home.

Habits: having been alone so long, he talks to himself.

Once you have gotten the sketchy details you can flesh him out and think about where he is, what he’s doing, where he’s going, who he’s with. Do a basic Who, What, When, Why, How like a journalist, only you don’t use journalistic jargon. Read through your character sketch and make changes until you are satisfied with it. This process can be done for any character you create.

One thing I always keep in mind, my characters have an existence of their own. They make their own decisions, go their own way, and do what they want. Remain flexible, today’s villain may be tomorrow’s hero!