Writing Excuses, Week Five

Finally! A spare moment!

I mentioned not too long ago that this last Writing Excuses was really exciting to me. Well, I just sat down and wrote out the writing exercise, and I loved it!

Now, you’re probably wondering where Week Four went. Week Four was a Q&A week. There wasn’t a writing prompt or exercise, so I skipped it. Whoops.

So, Week Five was titled: “What Do You Mean My Main Character is Boring?”

It’s really common for new authors to have characters with two main flaws:

  1. Boring- meaning they aren’t interesting as individuals
  2. No responsibility/accountability

Just because your character is caught up in interesting scenarios, or maybe even has interesting abilities, doesn’t mean your character is actually interesting.

So how do you make sure your main character is interesting?

Consider why they are involved with the plot. Make sure they have an active role. If your character isn’t making decisions, if they just let things happen to them, chances are they might be boring. What’s at stake? What are the consequences of actions and in-actions? What makes your character tick?

Knowing your character’s background will be helpful. That doesn’t mean you need to include it in your story, but it will help you know your character even better. Knowing how they react to things, and why, will allow you to push your character’s limits. And desperate people are interesting.

But, I don’t want to rehash the entire episode. If you want to listen and learn, click here!

The Writing Exercise for this week was to take three different characters and walk them through a scene. Convey their emotional states, their jobs, and their hobbies without directly stating any of those. The scene in question:

Walking through a marketplace and they need to do a dead-drop (dropping an item off for another person to pick up later, à la James Bond).
GordonThomson Marketplace

I would like to say here that these are complete and utter rough drafts. They are one off scenes of characters in my Work In Progress. In no way are these scenes meant to be in the novel, nor are they indicative of my finished works. These are the products of a writing exercise, and should be read accordingly. Thanks!

1. Joanna hurried through the market. The road was thick with shoppers, and she recoiled as someone bumped her. She clutched the small package to her chest. She couldn’t lose it.
Merchants called their wares, several singling her out.
“A lovey shawl for the Lady?” Cried one. He fluttered a green silk shawl, hoping she would fawn over it. On a normal day she would have, but today she looked down and hurried on her way.
She kept to herself, wading through the crowd. She heard the murmurs as she passed. Despite the pale hood hiding her red hair, people recognized her.
“Magister’s daughter,” one woman whispered as Joanna strode by.
“Lady Valtoran,” another curtsied. Joanna inclined her head and increased her speed.
How did she get herself into this? She clutched the parcel, worried that she might fumble it in the busy street.
“Third barrel to the right of the closed fruit stand,” she mumbled. She saw the stand and walked right past it. She stopped at a small cart selling specialty loaves of bread. She bought one made with an exotic blend of cheeses and then turned back the way she came.
Nibbling at the loaf calmed her some, but her hand still shook as she dropped the package into the assigned barrel.
This was ridiculous, but it was worth it. Troy needed this, even if he wouldn’t admit it.
She paused, making sure no one was watching her, and then merged back into the market traffic.

2. Usually, he liked markets. They were full of people who knew the value of hard work. Who knew the heat of the sun at their back, and the relief of a cool breeze in the middle of summer.
But the capitol’s market wasn’t like that.
Jordinn tried to keep the scowl from his face but it was far from easy. The smell hit him first. The mingle of hot bread and flowers. And rotting fruit, sweat, and too many perfumes. Markets should smell good. Fresh.
But not in the capitol.
Jordinn frowned and marched through the crowd. He was tall by most standards, and the long years of helping villages had earned him a none-too-subtle layer of muscle. It didn’t take the crowd long to give him his space.
He kept his head up, scanning the busy street. Some people stared as he passed, gawking at his thick-coiled hair and tan skin, both of which flew in the face of current Åmar fashion.
Jordinn smirked. He had no intentions of fitting in.
“Finest suits in all of Courdelon!” A merchant brandished a suit coat and gestured to Jordinn. He just shook his head, he knew better. Will was the best haberdasher in the capitol, and a friend. No one could offer him better, or make better. He ran a hand across the warm brown fabric of his coat and felt the lump there.
He’d almost forgotten. He frowned and refocused on the task at hand.
He was searching for the closed fruit stand when he saw the leather works stall. A large pack hung from the ceiling, and Jordinn knew he had to stop. As he approached the makeshift counter a woman exited the tented backroom.
She smiled when she saw him. “See anything you like?”
“I was looking at the pack there,” he said. “Mine’s seen better days.”
“And many roads.” She shook her head as she looked over his worn bag. She pulled the large pack from its post and toured him through each pocket. Then she told him about the work and care that went into tooling the fine leather.
Jordinn laughed. “You must me the leatherman’s wife.”
She held his gaze, her dark eyes glittering. “His daughter, actually.”
He knew she was flirting, and that he ought to be flattered. But this woman, with her mysterious dark hair and eyes couldn’t intrigue him. Not when he could think only of pale blonde hair and crystalline eyes.
“How much?”
“One Stand.”
Jordinn laughed. “I can buy a horse and tack for that.”
“Not a good one.”
“Even a bad horse is better than the best pack on the road.” Why did everyone here take him for some yokel?
She squinted at him and then sighed. “Fine. Sixty Reaches.”
Jordinn dug for the coins in his pocket.
“And dinner.”
He laughed. She didn’t.
“You can’t be serious.”
She raised a thin black eyebrow at him.
He sighed, “Fine. Sixty Reaches and dinner. With a friend.”
She glared at him, but then considered it. “Is he half so handsome as you?”
Jordinn shrugged. “That depends,” he smiled. “Do you like beards?”

Jordinn sat on a barrel, his back against the abandoned fruit stand. He’d emptied his old, beaten bag and was organizing the new one. His journal, thick with her letters went in last, just after the carefully wrapped mirror. He tied off the pack and smiled.
He took the small package from his breast pocket and dropped it in the third barrel. Then he left to tell Will to be prepared for company that night.

3. Runella’s crop of bright white hair bobbed through the crowded market. With all the commotion it was easy to ignore the weight in her bag. She perused stalls, making purchases at the Herbalist’s and the Chemist’s. She picked out a small bouquet of daffodils to bring some sunshine into her kitchen, and was searching for something to eat when she passed the shut down fruit stand. She noted its location and kept searching.
She had more than one errand that day.
She bought a small loaf of coarse bread and an even smaller wedge of cheese. She ate quickly and then went through her acquisitions.
Raider’s Root and Thornbrush for cleaning. She handled them gingerly; they were abrasive stuff. Camden Tree Sap and Garlic for Warding. Someone had to look after Jordinn. And Wraith’s Breath and Drydenseed Oil. She didn’t like to use the stuff, but it was best to have it than to need it. And of course, daffodils for the kitchen.
As she put the goods back in her bag she glimpsed the small, carefully wrapped parcel. It was her last errand.
She tucked the remaining bread in her bag, popped the last piece of cheese into her mouth and headed on her way.
She strode toward the stand, opened the third barrel, and put the package inside.
As she rejoined the market crowd, Runella grinned. There was nothing better than a productive day.

Sorry this was so long. That second scene really ran away with me. But, I really had fun with this, and now you guys will know a little bit about the people I’m talking about all the time. Plus, it was fun to give Runella some screen time. I haven’t seen a lot of her in this story so far.

Let me know what you guys think, and please share your exercises if you’re participating in this year’s season of Writing Excuses!

BZ

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2 thoughts on “Writing Excuses, Week Five

  1. Nice work. Normally I think I’d have found Jordinn the most interesting character, and judging by the length of the scene he seemed to be the one you got into most. But given the task they had, I found Joanna the most interesting. Her prominence and the likelihood of people recognising her and noticing what she was doing added tension to the situation and highlighted the challenges her life could bring, making her more interesting.

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