So, I got in to my first workshop yesterday kind of late (the badge pickup line was sort of slow >.>) But I managed to catch up. I was given a random magazine photograph of a woman, and asked to describe her in five words. Five, instantaneous words, without any real thought or consideration. Here's what I came up with:
pristine, elegant, clean, rich, refined
We were then asked to describe the person in our picture, and whether or not we would like to know them.
Looks like she would be tall; short, dark hair, dark eyes, almost black. She is wearing a business suit. Huge ring. She has blue accented glasses, very classy. She wears light makeup, very natural, so she seems to only wear it for slight enhancement rather than complete coverage (not trying to hide or recreate her features).
I would like to know her; she looks important. She looks like she has something important to say. She looks like a professional. Government official (politician) or major news anchor, or high-ranking private company official. She has large feet—perhaps size 9 or 9.5. Mid-to-late 40s. Looks familiar, may have seen her on TV before. She appears very authoritative, successful. Ex-military? Well-groomed.
We were then told to come up with five more words to describe the person (which was gradually becoming a character as we played along):
Intellectual, serene, fit, organized, adept
A scenario was proposed - this person wakes up in the middle of the night. What happens? What does she think about?
This woman is good at what she does, and makes a lot of money at it. Well-educated, climbed up the ladder. In the middle of the night, she wakes up and cannot go back to sleep. She gets up, wraps a silk or satin robe/housecoat around herself (pink, funnily enough, because she doesn't seem especially feminine). She is alert, roams the house a bit, nudges the cat aside with her foot as she goes to the fridge (a large stainless steel fridge) and pulls out a carton of milk. Does she drink directly from the carton? Yes, because despite her rigid exterior, she lets herself break the rules in her own house despite her strict adherence to them in the outside world.
Who worries about her?
Her husband does not worry much about her, because she is strong and resilient. Her mother worries about her because she crosses boundaries and uses daring strategy in her career. Her mother is from a different era; not used to women having such a strong sense of initiative in a career field dominated by men.
What do you imagine her name to be?
A scene was then proposed, using the photo I was given, along with all the other photos other people in the workshop were given. We were asked to give them names/professions/relationships to each other.
Surgeon Nelson– loner, workaholic, tennis-player
first wife (Joanne) and daughter (in 30s)
second wife (Beth) is in prison, tried to murder someone (him?)
lawyer defending 2nd wife (Peter)
mother of the lawyer (Debora)
Clare – new love interest for Nelson (resembles his daughter in rehab)
Then we were asked to choose one of the characters and write a short scene from their point of view. I picked my photograph of "Debora."
My son, Peter, is completely inept. I told him that it was a mistake to become a defense lawyer. We enjoyed a brief lunch today at the pier, where we discussed his current case. Since I am the district attorney, he has come to me to arrange a plea deal for his client, Beth. Beth has been accused of trying to murder her husband Nelson, a brilliant neurosurgeon.
“No,” I tell him. “No deal. She either pleads guilty or she will receive an added ten years for her gang association.”
“Gang affiliation can't be proven,” Peter tells me. He seems to have forgotten that she's met all the criteria. In fact that's why she even attempted to kill Nelson—it was part of a gang initiation act.
- Writing exercise for a story-starter: pull out three photos at random from a magazine and develop plot/characters with them.
- We derive our own conclusions about people just from looking at them, studying them. What would their dynamics be with other people?
- Trick your unconscious mind to imagine without any kind of censor (Angel vs Devil on your shoulders)
- Choose a character and write from their POV
- Know inner-life of the character, so they seem more grounded rather than unachievable/inaccessible