Audrey sat against the wall in a deep booth. A pendant lamp painted green hung low over the table, and a jukebox flashed in the dark corner. Plastic tubes of orange lights were bent into the outlines of pumpkins, and they blinked in the window while snow fell. It was two days before Halloween. Cars sped down Union Street and churned the snow into gray slush. Audrey’s friends talked about fabric samples and an exam on Tuesday. Audrey walked to the long empty bar and handed over her credit card in exchange for a suede pocket of darts. The girls took turns lining up behind the disappearing chalk line scratched on the dark carpet. The bar was dark and quiet. Audrey had never played darts before. She was surprised to learn that she wasn’t half bad. The sound of the dart piercing the cork was smooth and satisfying, a dry sponge drawing up water. Audrey slipped one of the pointed darts into her sweatshirt’s pocket before she turrned in the suede pocket to the bartender. She walked outside, and the snow fell in yellow cones of light hanging off the streetlights. It was getting dark, but the sun had never risen so the day had that eerie feeling of no end and no beginning. Sara and Nicole walked ahead. Audrey pressed the tip of her finger against the dart’s point and walked a little faster to catch up to her friends.
What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, pages 47 and 48
Exercise completed using Audrey, from CWE 27 on October 29, 2011
1. Character’s name: Audrey Elizabeth Shoemaker
2. Character’s nickname: Aud
3. Sex: female
4. Age: 20
5. Looks: pretty in a simple way. Long dark hair. Pale skin. Brown eyes. In the past two years or so, she’s realized that some people think she’s pretty. This is fun but confusing and a little overwhelming. She was always the plain one. Thrift store clothes. She doesn’t have a lot of money, so her wardrobe is simple. She looks at what other people wear to figure out what’s cool, and she replicates it the best she can. She knows this is weird and is sensitive that people will figure out what she’s doing.
6. Education: undergrad at a small liberal arts college.
7. Vocation/occupation: student.
8. Status and money: part of the “cool” group because she’s friends with the cool kids. She, herself, isn’t cool. She blends.
9. Marital status: single.
10: Family, ethnicity: Her parents are divorced. Her dad cheated on her mom repeatedly and was eventually caught. She doesn’t talk to him. Her mom is a big part of her life, in a distanced kind of way. Audrey is Ukranian and Irish.
11. Diction, accent, etc: none that she knows of.
12. Relationships: She forms fast and hard friendships. She likes to meet someone at 10:00 PM on a Tuesday night and stay up talking to them until 4:00 AM on Wednesday morning. She takes friendship seriously and is a good friend. She always makes time. Her relationships with her family are more strained. She can’t find her place among them and often resists trying. It’s too difficult and everything feels wrong all the time with them. They don’t seem to pick up on this difficulty, so she feels guilty on top of everything else. She does not have a boy friend and for a 20 year old, she is strangely unconcerned about this. Her level of unconcern worries her. She sees her friends fluttering around, looking for a boy friend.
13. Places: She shares a dorm room with Kristy. They are very different, but they are good friends. Kristy always has a new boy friend. She parties hard and drinks hard. Audrey admires her.
14. Possessions: Audrey keeps a journal religiously. She cares deeply about books and music. Gifts from friends are special and displayed around her room. Silly things, but they mean a lot.
15. Recreation, hobbies: Audrey knits. She reads a lot and writes in her journal. She doesn’t take her classes seriously, which is unexpected because she reads and writes so much.
16. Obsessions: God. Friends. Books.
17. Beliefs: God, most days. The Earth. Compassion.
18. Politics: liberal.
19. Sexual history: none. This is a background worry for her.
20. Ambitions: To be a writer.
21. Religion: raised Catholic. Currently floundering.
22. Superstitions: none.
23. Fears: being alone. Being different. Crickets.
24. Attitudes: shy, reserved, can seem snotty but isn’t really. Just shy and uncertain and busy with her thoughts.
25. Character flaws: can seem snotty. Self-absorbed. Moody.
26. Character strengths: compassionate. Intellectual. Enjoys conversations. Likes to problem solve abstractly.
27. Pets: None.
28: Tastes in books, music: contemporary fiction, poetry, short stories, and folk music.
29. Journal entries: constant. Self pitying. Rambling.
30. Correspondence: exchanges long letters with a childhood friend.
31. Food preferences: bread. Cheese. Beer.
32. Handwriting: boring. She wishes she had interesting handwriting but doesn’t.
33: Astrological sign: Gemini.
34: Talents: writing. Listening. Bringing out the best in others.
What I’m thinking about
Interesting to note that, as I wrote this, I wanted to make Audrey into everything I’m not. I wanted her to have a cool wardrobe. I wanted her to be a prolific writer, the life of the party, the one with the eclectic, intriguing handwriting. But I can’t write about that person, because I have no idea what it’s like to set trends and be the intriguing one. I have to write about the person who fades into the background, and I have to make her worth reading about.