• Exercise 4 – A Chat With a Character

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    The moon is full and the night bright, so I can see her clearly as she comes over the dune. She hesitates, unsure. She goes by CJ and she is my creation. I still wonder how I should introduce myself when she spots me sitting in the sand.

    “Oh, so it’s you.”

    “Me?” I’m confused. “Me who?”

    “The one who got me into this mess. My life was going just fine until you took over.”

    “How do you know this?”

    She plops down in the sand next to me. “I’m just not myself. I always know what to say—usually too much—and suddenly I talk my way down blind alleys and dead ends and then just sit there and stare into space. Or frown. Or—oh, this is my favorite—I glare. I haven’t done this much glaring in my entire life! I just know this isn’t me.”

    “Uh,” I say, surprised. Somehow I had not expected this. Though maybe I should have. After all, I made her this way. “It’s the process,” I stammer. “A rough draft.”

    “Well, get it un-roughed.”

    “Sorry. That takes time. The good stuff happens in revision.”

    She frowns. She glares! I swear she does. “How long?”

    I shrug.

    “And that whole thing with Jack? Was that you, too?”

    I hold up both hands. “That’s all him. you two need to work that out between you.”

    “In your head.”


    “And Nick? He’s a pain in the ass and creepy to boot. I don’t get what he’s doing in this. I have enough on my plate.”

    “His name is Dominique. I wish you’d call him that.”

    “I call him whatever works for me. Mostly I want to call him gone.”

    “Well, he’s a complication. A source of conflict. Stories need those.”

    She groans. “My whole life is one giant complication. I don’t need any more!”

    “So just ignore him. Trust me, he really, really wants to ignore you too.”

    She shoves her long curls out of her frowning face. Her hair is frizzy with humidity. I know she hates being in Florida. “You have us living together—practically chained us together. Ignoring him is going to be hard to do.”

    I smile. I know. It’s the whole point after all.

    “Don’t look at me like that.”

    My smile widens. I love the fire of irritation that lights her deep blue eyes.

    Then realization dawns. “Oh God. What are you…? No. No, no. Please don’t. I beg you!”

    “Oh, c’mon. you know you have more in common with Dominique than Jack.”

    “I so do not!”

    “Deep down you know you do.”

    “Nick is creepy with a capital ‘C’! What the hell is his problem anyway?”

    I sigh. “You know I can’t tell you that. But you’re a reporter. You can figure this out. In fact, I’m counting on you to figure it out.”

    “Fine,” she snaps. “And you’re a source.”

    I shake my head with grave regret. “No can do. That would hardly be fair to Dominique.”

    Her voice drops low now, and the glare is like a laser beam. “Do I freaking look like I give a rat’s ass about being fair to that arrogant French bastard you dropped on me? Do I? Huh?”

    I can’t help myself. I grin. “So, CJ. I notice you’re not asking me what Jack’s problem is. And him you’re engaged to last time I checked.”

    She staggers to her feet so quickly she trips and nearly falls in the loose sand. “You bitch,” she hisses.

    “Oh honey,” I murmur, watching her stomp away. “This is going to be so much fun.”

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    This is great, Susan. The glaring had me laughing aloud. This exercise often leads to realizations like this — things we make our character do or say maybe a bit too often. More importantly, it can sometimes unearth thoughts/desires our character has that we may not have noticed while immersed in the actual narrative. Although I read this expecting some further insight into Matea, as I assume others did. I was standing on a rug, and you pulled it out from under me. One question we forgot to ask you last night — are Matea and I’Tan actually invisible, or… Read more »


    Knowing who Dominique is (I love having the idsider view) I think this is great. I am looking forward to getting to know CJ as well. I think I will have to have a converstion like this of my own…..


    Definitely worth the effort! Do it with paper and pen/pencil, not laptop, and give yourself a time limit. I did this in 30 minutes. Loads of fun =D


    Hi David. Yes, this exercise was insightful and a lot of fun. I think I’ll sit down and have a chat with the rest of them as well. Sorry for that rug I pulled. Even though I enjoy doing that with my writing it was not the intention here. I’m not currently writing in Matea’s world, but the story I am writing (CJ’s story) was still too rough to give to the group this time around. With all the good feedback I got I plan to have the beginning of this new novel for you for my second submission. As… Read more »


    CJ certainly sounds like someone that would be fun to know, fiesty, opinionated and intelligent. And juggling 2 men at the same time… you’re right, this will be fun.

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