An update from our fourteenth Weekly Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop, plus some of the output published below
The Stone Soup Weekly Writing Workshop is open to all Stone Soup contributors and subscribers. Every Friday, we meet for an hour-and-a-half via Zoom to respond to a new writing challenge, write together in our virtual room, and then share what we have written with one another.
Our conversation on Friday July 3 was attended by young writers from the US, the UK, and France. Our discussion started with us looking at artist’s sketches, so that we could get a feel for their roughness, how the artist only draws the significant parts of their character, so that we could translate this into our writing. We also read a few excerpts from texts where a character was described, so that we could get an idea of the different ways to describe a character. We examined a few sketches and paintings to identify what the most important parts of the characters were, and then we wrote for ten minutes, creating a simple sketch for a character of our own design. Then, after we shared a few of our pieces, we went back to writing, this time, to create a new character and to place them in a story. This showed the contrast between the simple sketch that we wrote first, and the more complex one that we wrote second. Read on below to get a feeling for some of the powerful writing we were given a glimpse of in this session!
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here
The Writing Challenge: Write a character sketch (or two) that gives the reader a vivid image of your character.
The Participants: Ever, Maddie, Sneha, Alice, Lena, Peri, Tilly, Hera, Lucy, Anya, James, Abi, Sophia, Enni, Kanav, Shaili, Janani, Gracie, Aditi, Kathy, Sara, Madeline, Rachel, Charlotte, Seraj, and more . . .
The Giant Man
A giant of a man stood in the doorway. His face was almost completely hidden by a long shaggy mane of hair and a wild, tangled beard, but you could make out his eyes, glinting like black beetles under all the hair. His voice was a very loud grunt. Every time he stepped, the ground shook. He just stood there waiting for an invitation to come in. Five minutes later, he walked into the house and said, “where is Sabre Williams?”
Sneha Arun, 10
A long black veil covered her pretty face. She clutched a photograph of him smiling. She was mourning. The features of her face could be seen only when you approached her closely.
Her wavy blonde hair curled softly at her shoulders. Her rosy red lips betrayed a sense of foreboding as they morphed into a sad smile. Her blue eyes seemed vacant.
She seemed to look beyond the masses of people that tried to comfort her. Out of each eye, came a stream of tears, leaving her eyes red and puffy. She walked into the house, feeling her sadness drown her, while her delicate lace dress formed pools of water. She felt alone in this big world, her one solace was that her husband would always be in her heart.
Heather Sierra, 10
The mother pulled her black hair into a ponytail. She sat on a rough, torn, gray airport seat with a tiny girl in her lap, crowded in by hundreds of others. The girl seemed much happier than the mother.
She had a sweet smile on her face, and her big brown eyes were bright with curiosity. She looked around, her long, brown braid that hung down her back swiveling alongside her head.
“Mama?” she whispered in a voice so low and quiet, yet so sharp and
loud to her mother’s listening ears.
“Yes, darling?” her mother replied, tucking her long, silky ponytail into the blackish-colored hood of her jacket.
The little girl, who looked about five or six didn’t reply. She either had forgotten her question or no longer cared. The girl’s eyes were glued to an advertisement, something with bold letters and cheery images that her mother couldn’t quite see from the distance between them. The little girl was mesmerized by the illustration on the billboard. The little girl slowly slid off of her mother’s lap, leaving her solemn mother behind. Tucking her too-tight and fading purple shirt into her rainbow, flowing skirt, she began to walk toward the billboard, her tight, clicking, black shoes, tapping against the tile floor.
“Come back!” her mother cried, although not nearly loud enough to be heard through the airport chaos. The girl toddled along, taking each step carefully, her black sneakers tap-tapping against the cold metal floor of the airport. Approaching the advertisement, she stopped. There was a brilliant drawing of a black-and-blue pair of shoes, blue on the heels, black laces, and an extraordinary paragraph of unreadable words.
“Shoes.” the girl pronounced the word with ease and gentleness, an important word to her. She looked down at her own pair, battered and old yet still comfortable and soft. The laces were well-worn and appeared tired of being knotted so many times. The girl loved the billboard with all of her heart. How much she would give to have a pair of shoes like those.
“Come back!” her mother called, finally speaking up again. The little girl looked up at her mother, toward the sign, and back to her mother, as if trying to decide which was more important. Pulling her braid tight in her little girl grip, she wandered back to her mother’s seat. Without a word, she smiled up at her mother, the big, happy smile that she’d started with, and said one word, just one word: “Shoes.”
Anya G., 14
1. Like the rest of his body, his face was small. Not smushed in any way, just petite. His features were slightly sharp, like a dulled knife, and, like his thin arms and legs, his tiny little ears shook inexplicably whenever he moved. His face was, in general, awkward, as he had a small little chin, a thin mouth, and a tiny, ruddy nose. He wore faded clothes, not because he couldn’t afford new ones, but because he simply didn’t care to, and his short-cut hair was like hay, both in appearance and texture. Altogether, he was not a handsome man. His eyes, though, were gems. Their large, round shape was out of place, and far too big, but their light brown hue, like honey, or amber, were the most majestic they could be.
2. Her high heels clicked as she strode down the sidewalk, a briefcase clutched in one hand. Her shoes weren’t terribly fancy; they were really only half-an-inch high, but they gave her the little height she needed to be as tall as her male co-workers. Her briefcase was a dull brown leather, something she had inherited from her father upon his early passing, and it had stickers all over it, from places all across the world.
In her other hand, she held a coffee. She always stopped for coffee on the way to work, and now, in the frigid November air, she wanted to get inside so she could drink it while it was still hot. Upon the fingers which clutched both the coffee and the briefcase, were fingernails that looked as though they could have used some cleaning up. It wasn’t that they were grubby, necessarily, but the nail polish which she’d applied a week ago, an ocean-like aqua-blue, was chipping, leaving her hands to look rough. The color of her nails didn’t really fit with her outfit today, which was a lavender-colored skirt that reached her shins, accompanied by a grey sweater. She didn’t care about this mis-match, though, because she loved the aqua-blue on her nails. They reminded her of the seaside, though she couldn’t usually stay at a beach for very long without her pale skin becoming burnt, or the skin on her stubby nose peeling, or her numerous freckles multiplying.
A wind breathed down the street, faint, but just strong enough to allow her large ears to grow chilly, and to blow around her face the stray auburn hairs which had snuck out of her bun. She soon reached the office building where she worked as a journalist for a major newspaper. Her office was situated on the fourth floor out of nine, and she liked that. There were floor-to-ceiling windows in the building, from which she felt she could see the entire city. Standing in front of the building, she put her briefcase down so she could open the door to go inside. As she pulled on the handle, she caught a glimpse of her reflection, saw her own wide, dark brown eyes like rich chocolate. She stared at herself for a moment, propped the door open with her foot, grabbed her briefcase, and went inside to start the day.
A Man of Darkness
Peri Gordon, 10
His hair was darker than dark, his lips always sneering, his nose half as wide as yours or mine. He had a moustache that seemed fifty percent gel, considering the way it would curve upwards, and he hardly ever wore anything but black.
Enni Harlan, 13
Evgenia Caranelli stood in the doorway of her mansion. She eyed her unexpected
visitor, a mere child who appeared intimidated by the elderly woman’s manner. Most people were intimidated by Evgenia, for reasons they could not put to words. She was a thin, towering figure with immaculate posture. Her steel blue eyes were the highlight of her pale, striking face, which showed no hint of her old age. Her cheek bones were high and distinguished, and her nose was thin and sharp. Every aspect of her seemed absolutely defined and sophisticated. Her long silver hair was pulled back, and her gaze was stern and orderly.
“Hello, Louise,” Evgenia said in her captivating, whispery voice, her well-enunciated English coated with a faint accent. “What brings you here?”
“Hello, Grandmother,” the little girl muttered, shoving a long strand of brown hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I had a question.” Her eyes darting around nervously.
“Well?” Evgenia boomed.
Louise looked up tentatively and frowned. “How exactly did my father die?”
Evgenia’s eyes widened, and her stern gaze faded. At the mention of her only son, she appeared shrivelled, shrunken, and small. It was as if her age had finally caught up with her. Evgenia stumbled back and took a seat on the doorstep before burying her head in her hands.
A Solitary Boy
Sophia Hou, 10
The morning sun shone down through the fluffy white clouds, sprinkled sparsely throughout the blue sky. A solitary boy happily skipped down a worn path starting from an old house, its planks cracked and weathered, spiderwebs hanging at its corners. A ten-year-old child, he had a long nose, sharp and perceptive. Dirt flaked off his legs and sweat beaded on his head from climbing the old oak in his backyard, his dark-brown hair clinging to his forehead and his brilliant green eyes catching every movement and detail. His clothes hung loosely at his sides, around his thin arms and legs. At all times, his eyes were lit with excitement, impish and cunning. The shrubs and plants around him rustled. Birds chirped, singing their own songs. A black backpack hung from one strap on his shoulder, its zipper carelessly open, folders and books peeking out, just as they did every day before, as he walked to school.
Madeline Kline, 12
As the new girl walked in, all eyes in the room turned to her, as she had that effect on people. She had a round face, with kind, thoughtful eyes, and when she smiled her cheekbones were clearly shown, giving her an attractive look that drew all of the attention in the room. Her hair fell in short dark curtains on either side of her face, making the rest look brighter and sweeter. Her red lips looked full, although not as though she wore makeup.
The next thing everyone noticed about her was the bright colors of her clothing, the yellow and orange of newly blossomed daffodils, that caught and shaped her personality like clay in the eyes of the others. She wore a ring, showing a treble clef and bass clef forming a heart, showing all who saw it her love of music.
However, she didn’t move like she was trying to exaggerate her beautiful features. She was pretty, but the room could tell she wasn’t trying. She instead walked across the room and sat down in the first empty desk she saw, apologizing to the teacher sincerely for being late.
The teacher accepted her apology and continued teaching, ignoring the fact that the class wasn’t paying attention anymore. Instead, all eyes in the room were poking at the new character in the drama, trying to figure out all her secrets and personality, and deciding whether they should try for her friendship.
Truly, her dark brown eyes could see more than the outside of people, as everyone also realized (except the teacher, who was still talking about the American Revolution as though all attention was on her). She looked like the kind of character who kept their emotions and social life separate and wouldn’t treat someone differently if she didn’t like him. Instead, she would watch, weigh her feelings against the evidence she collects, and decide whether or not her judgment of him is rational.
That much is how much most students could see. However, often there is one student who doesn’t stop there, who goes on and looks for a darker side, for evidence of something else in those deep brown eyes, as did the boy sitting in the back of the class, gazing up at the teacher, while truly thinking about the angel who just walked in.
Is she aware of all the students watching her? Did I see something flicker behind her eyes in the way she looked at that boy, sitting behind her? Does she have a darker side? This student was looking for things that may or may not have been painted into the portrait, but may overall have been among the paints used. Hidden underneath layers of paint, brushed on very little, not affecting the colors, but hiding, so if you rip open the painting and look inside you’ll find it.
Ol' Stephens and The Little Boy
Ever Sun, 10
There once was a short, stubby, old man whom everyone called Ol' Stephens who lived by himself down the road. His house was in terrible shape; with holes in the roof and crooked planks. His face was round and plump, and his nose took up a third of his face; his hair was few and thin, and he had a double, maybe even triple chin. His fingers were sausage-like, short and fat, like himself. It was his eyes that were stunning, layered eyes of greyish blue and turquoise.
He dressed in plain clothes, but he never seemed a beggar; he wore a crumpled shirt inside and a leathery vest over it, his almond-green pants slightly bigger than he really was. His shoes were old and worn, the buckles rubbed with dirt and the soles thinner than paper. He always had a hat on, in a cowboy style, though no one really knew what he did in the old days. He was a fat old man, and his belly bulged and, in a peculiar way, hung downwards.
He seemed to mutter every word he wanted to say, and no one could really hear him, except if you were near him and you could smell the pipe that he smoked in the mornings.
Now, somewhere near the abandoned railroad, there was another house that homed five people; Mrs. Robins, Mr. Robins, and the three Robins children. The eldest child, now a strong lad of twenty or twenty one, was out and working. The boy in the middle was in high school, studying hard and getting good grades to achieve college scholarships. It was the youngest that was playful and had what Mr. Robins would call, the "kid spirit". The youngster boasted dazzling ash-blonde hair, thick and oily and hung over his forehead. He had a tiny nose, a loud mouth that would never stay shut, and big deep brown eyes that seemed to sink into anything he laid his eyes on. No matter where he went, giggles of mischief followed, and he went everywhere.
One day when the sun was shining so brightly that even the little boy had to squint, he ended up in Ol' Stephens' place. The house was in such bad state that he had to dodge the pieces of cement and wood bristles that fell onto the ground, which was covered in growing moss. The house, in which lived a live person, seemed like an abandoned cottage that was deserted for many, many years. It looked like a jungle that overtook what might used to have been a house.
And that's how the little boy met Ol' Stephens.