An update from our thirty-third Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday February 13, plus some of the output published below
This week we talked about larger than life characters, and the different tools writers use to portray them. The focus was on the first meeting with that character: how can you make it clear from the very beginning that this is a special, memorable, unusual character, and what the key elements are that make them this way? In a group discussion we shared ideas about larger-than-life characters and how we might use how they look, sound, walk, talk, laugh, dress, eat, smell–any aspect of appearance or presence or characteristic to convey a strong impression of who they are.
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here
The Writing Challenge: Write a passage in which you introduce a larger than life character, where the reader is encountering them for the very first time. You do not have to describe a bg personality in detail, but do focus on how the initial meeting with the character stakes their claim to importance.
The Participants: Lina, Rachael, Sierra, Lindsay, Tegan, Samantha, Lucy K, Hera, Ava, Charlotte K, Eve, Anna, Grace, Simran, Olivia, Alice, Emma, Noa, Emi, Angela, Iago, Charlotte M, Yasmine, Olivia, Enni, Nova, Anya, Madeline N, Leo, Pranjoli, Helen, Madeline K, Margaret L, Sophie, Julia, Sage, Georgia, Ruhi, Syra, Lucy R, Peri, Kaidyn, Lindsay, Tilly, Maggie K, Lina K, Jonathan.
Sierra E., 11
Few were (and still are) able to imagine the wild figure of Fox Girl. But if you saw her, you’d recognize her even if you’d never heard of such a thing.
For Fox Girl lived in a faraway town, Ivywood, hundreds of thousands of miles from any large cities. Where she lived, the months of winter never came, and the incredible, unbelievable creatures roamed free. And here, in this world already beyond normal, lived Fox Girl, the one that many came to Ivywood to see.
Fox Girl’s appearance was unreal. Stranger than the cyan wolves that managed to fly in the air with their magnificent wings, and stranger than the salmon-pink kittens that would spend their time leaping in and out of the many winding, flowing rivers. Fox Girl, for one, looked absolutely anything but human. While she had several details that resembled a person, most of Fox Girl was elsewhere.
She had electrifying shamrock-green eyes that glowed especially in the darkness, while her vibrant amethyst-purple hair that stretched to her toes were unignorable. A bushy, apricot-colored tail tinged with white hung between her long legs and two ears, matching in appearance, stood always perked atop her head. Fox Girl dressed in lively hues which mirrored her animated personality.
Fox Girl was one to watch. One to wait hours, days, months, years to see. Many say Ivywood is just a myth told to put young children asleep at night. But if you question me, I’ll always say the same: “No, Ivywood and Fox Girl aren’t a legend. It’s nothing but reality.”
The Girl's Revenge
Lindsay Gao, 9
If anyone who hadn’t known better had seen the girl, they would have laughed, thinking “Ha! I could finish this girl off with a twitch of my hand.” But this, ultimately, would not be true. She was quite young, with long black hair that melted into the shadows, pale skin, and a frail, tattered white nightgown. But her eyes, white as snow, glowed with the utmost power. The only way possible to tell if she was angry or preparing to strike was to look at her right hand, where you could see her thumb, which, if provoked, would jerk back one, and then become still. After that signaling jerk, the shadows seemed to slowly crawl towards her victims. When they panicked, she would tell them it was alright, and that she wouldn’t hurt them. But she did. All their bodies were never found.
When no one was watching, she might slip away, and you could see the pain, heartbreak, and longing. The feeling that people always assumed she didn’t have or feel. She would let out a sob, a mourning of losing what you loved and being turned into a monster. A monster that you weren’t. She knew people called her “the doll of death”, and she hated it. She wished that she could get away with everything, but then she would remember. The death. The blood. The screams. The tears. The pain. And it. The thing. And she knew, the beast, the one that had killed her family, and caused her sorrow would pay. It did not know that she was powerful, and now, it was too late, for she, the enchantress, the girl it had hurt so long ago, was coming.
Peri Gordon, 11
It was Wednesday at 9am, I think, and I was sipping my coffee and walking to work when I saw her. Well, first I heard her shouting, and then I looked over, and then I saw the top of her purple stack of hair. I took the time to follow the fluffy pile down to the bottom, and I found a face died green with violet eyes and lips made to be the color of the ocean. Her eyes were wild and gleaming with both happy and sad tears, and her mouth was constantly moving as she ceaselessly talked about some problem that had befallen her. She was so out of place in the quiet atmosphere of this quiet little town that no one could ignore her. It was hard to look away from her face, but I had to see what this woman was wearing. My eyes are still angry at me for exposing them to such a bright, chaotic assortment of skirts and pants and shirts and dresses layered on top of one another, orange and green and blue and pink, spotted and striped and beaded and bejeweled. She wasn’t wearing one outfit; she was wearing three. A growing crowd clustered around her and went where she went, and she was pacing around the square, shaking her fists and head, and making descriptive gestures with her hands. She would beckon more people over, and if they refused she would snap at them continuously until they obeyed. Then she would move on seamlessly as if nothing had happened, and anyone who interrupted was rewarded with a scowl. I was probably the fortieth person to join the crowd that day, and I didn’t care that I was missing work because my boss and all my coworkers were too. Everyone was too confused to do anything but gawk at her, and everyone was too excited, because she was so extreme in so many ways. She was confusion itself, and she was a cause for confusion.
Lina Kim, 10
The crunch of the leaves under Angie’s boots chilled her to the bone. She was running, running in the forest. Why? Why was she running? She couldn’t remember. She couldn’t remember anything.
Angie froze. It was them. Who is them? she wondered. She turned around.
She remembered them now.
The horrifying spirit floated in midair, its bat-like wings flapping noiselessly. Its fangs were bared, gaping mouth wide, emitting black fog. Its gray antlers were sticking in all directions, and its large, beady black eyes bore into Angie. Silvery black mist shrouded the creature as its long black tail whipped back and forth behind it. A large scar ran across it’s vaguely humanoid face. It let out a horrible, ear-splitting shriek, calling on more spirits. The creatures’ atoms reformed before Angie’s eyes, hungrily extending their claws. She screamed.
No one heard.
Or no one cared enough to venture in this forest, was Angie’s last thought before she felt her atoms drifting away from her soul. A few seconds later, and all that was left was a bloody carcass sprawled in the dirt, never to be found again. No one remembered Angie’s tale.
A Vividly Eccentric Girl
Sage Millen, 13
At first glance, she seemed like a pack of highlighters had coloured her body. A strange, vividly eccentric girl, she stood in the center of the crowd, and yet seemed so separate from it. Her hair, cut in a jagged, voluminous bob, was neon blue, and she absentmindedly curled a stray strand around her finger. Her makeup was so extravagant it seemed almost clownish - hot pink lipstick, rainbow eyeshadow, and long, painted nails. Giant green hoops swung from her ears. She was quite petite, but seemed to take up more space than any of the navy, grey and black-clad people around her.
The girl wore a bright orange hoodie that clashed aggressively with her warm, reddish-toned skin. Her leggings were made of a plastic-like material, and she scuffed the toe of one of her glittering silver platform boots against the dusty sidewalk.
Only a very observant onlooker could have looked past the colourful appearance, and perhaps that was her goal. Her shoulders were hunched almost imperceptibly, her chin a touch too low. Beneath the makeup, her eyes looked mournfully out into the distance. She seemed lost and vulnerable, but trying hard not to show it.
One of her hands was curled around a small, singed note, crumpled and tearstained. If the very observant onlooker also happened to have x-ray vision, they could have read the neat, even lettering: “We’re sorry, but we simply don’t have the space or resources for two children. We promise to take good care of your brother. He’ll forget about you soon enough, it’s better that way. For all of us.”
The girl clenched the note tighter in her fist and brushed an invisible speck of dust of her sleeve. Her neon outfit and hair seemed to reassure her - she would never be forgotten again.
Who I Really Am
My mothers walk out the door. Their footsteps make hollow echoing sounds against the driveway. The car door slams shut hard. One mom was always angry about something or another. I look through my different colored eyes at my bare calloused feet, brown from grime, against the cracked linoleum floor. I fiddle with my big ears and try to distract myself from what I should be doing and what I should have done. I should be getting to the school bus. I should have done my homework last night. I should have gotten higher than a thirteen on my test. I should have taken my medicine. I should have eaten dinner last night and breakfast this morning. I should have combed my hair. I should have done many things, but there is no way to go back. There is only a way to move forward. I cross the small house, and step into the small backyard. I climb to the top of the splintering fence. I look around to make sure no one is watching. Then I allow my wings to unfold. I allow myself to soar high into the sky. I allow myself to flip and dive. I allow my red hair to fly behind me. Then I make a mistake, I allow myself to laugh. Mrs. Janson steps out her front door. She looks up to the sky, she looks up to me. She gasps. I’ve never in my life been as scared as I was at that moment, the moment that someone figured out who I really was.
The Unremarkable Mr. Nicholas
Pranjoli Sadhukha, 11
Smith Nicholas always had an uncanny ability to stand out in a crowd. It wasn’t just how his name always seemed to be reversed. The electric blue streaks in his wildly uncombed white hair were always questioned by many who met him and he would gleefully reply “to change things up... don’t you think the color is simply lovely?” He always donned a snow-white ferret named Mixel perched on his shoulder. A few acquaintances claimed to have even seen a little pink nose poking out of his coat pocket, and occasionally they thought they heard tiny, high-pitched squeaks. Smith was blissfully heedless of the mystery in his pocket but he did enjoy stroking Mixel’s back while frisking along his way. Most of the time, Mr. Nicholas was seen in his beloved worn out green coat that always seemed to be inside out and five sizes too large along with an imperfectly knitted yet treasured brown plaid scarf. His unkempt look might seem disconcerting to some yet his jovial charm always drew people towards him. Everywhere he went, his contagious laugh and his always lingering optimism would spread joy naturally. Over time, people stopped noticing Smith’s mismatched green and brown eyes and how his nose was slightly off center. At the last State Fair, he was overheard saying that he felt lucky to have a sharp green eye as well as a pleasant brown one. His striking, curious eyes and his hearty, infectious laugh were all that mattered. He was remarkable yet unremarkable. “A surprise of a friend” was how most would call him.