An update from our thirty-seventh Writing Workshop
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday March 20, plus some of the output published below
This week Stone Soup Contributor Madeline Kline, 13, led a workshop on antiheroes in which she taught us that antiheroes are captivating because of the relatability of their flaws.
To begin the workshop, we discussed the qualities that distinguish an antihero from a hero, such as honesty vs. dishonesty, bravery vs. cowardice, and integrity vs. selfishness. We learned that the difference between an antihero and an antagonist is that an antihero is a flawed protagonist with good intentions, whereas an antagonist is a character who stands in the way of the protagonist, often using the worst qualities of the antihero against them. We also learned about various categorizations and examples of antiheroes, such as antiheroes who become heroes (Phil Conners from the movie Groundhog Day), antiheroes who become villains (Coriolanus Snow from the prequel novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes), tragic heroes (Othello), and comic heroes (Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid). When Madeline finished her lecture, the students set to work on creating some of the inspired writing you can find below.
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here.
The Challenge: Create a character who is one of the types (comic, tragic, becomes a hero, becomes a villain) of antiheroes we discussed. The character can also be an antagonist.
The Participants: Ismini, Hera, Rachael, Leo, Olivia Z, Reese, Sophia, Lindsay, Pranjoli, Anya, Eve, Sadie, Peri, Helen, Julia, Lucy R, Sierra, Liam, Anna, Sage, Simran, Lina, Elbert, Madeline S, Margaret, Alice, EMi, Yasmine, Olivia S, Emma B, Jonathan, Charlotte K, Ava, Samantha, Nami, Kaidyn, Angela, Michele, Charlotte, Enni, Noa, Dora, Nova, and Grace Z.
Peri Gordon, 11
“You already got your prize, Miss Aler.”
“Did not, I put it back because…the bag was stained,” I lie. “Come on, I need another one.”
The lady handing out the betting prizes gives me a suspicious glance but hands me the sack of gold anyway. “I didn’t see you put it back, Samantha,” she says warily. I roll my eyes at her, snatch the bag, and say, “Thanks for doing your job.”
When I was born into the kingdom of Darlaway, I didn’t take long to start talking, and my first word was, “fight.” I fight to get what I want every day, and if I have to fib a bit in the process, so much the better. If everyone else is weak because they don’t know how to fight back, I hope, for their sake, that they get that straightened out.
I hide my second load of gold with the first one in my little stash, which is hidden in a bush outside my house. The bush, a rich green color that matches Darlaway’s flag, is thick enough to hide the hoard so it won’t be found by a nosy parent. Soon, though, I hope to need a bigger bush.
Inside, my sister is bawling, as usual. I want to cover my ears, tell her what a bother she is, and go to my room, but then Mom will know I’m in one of my “wicked moods,” as she calls them. I tried to explain to her once that sometimes I feel like fighting and will take it out on just about anyone. She told me to control my hostility. Mom and I are very different.
Well, I get punished when I’m in a “wicked mood.” That’s why I bend down and stroke my sister’s soft hair. There’s a part of me that loves my sister and wants to keep her safe, and there’s another part of me that wants to teach my sister to be like me (which won’t exactly keep her safe), and there’s one last part of me that hates the little crybaby. I can feel all three at the same time, but for all Mom knows, I can only feel one at a time, so I make her think it was the first. I think it worked—Mom gives me a proud grin, and even my sister’s tears stop for a second.
The Finish Line
Enni Harlan, 14
Dad always parked his car way on the other side of the street, past the black asphalt and closer to the row of violet flowers that dotted a neighbor’s fence—an unlucky neighbor, probably, to have only been able to snag a home right next to the busiest street in the neighborhood. The one that loops past that old bus stop stained with graffiti and under the bridge with the train Mom never lets me take. It’s unsafe, she always says. Too many people. Too many bad people. Did you know, there was a kid who went missing on Friday? Did you know that on Thursday there was a shooting across the street, right at Target? That Target? Yes, that Target. The one I bought glue from last Tuesday? Yes. Last Tuesday. That Target. It’s not
safe enough, Aila. It’s not safe enough.
Everything’s unsafe to my parents. I think it’s stupid. I wish they’d stop lecturing me about safety—what do they think I’m going to do, start talking to strangers? I take the bus now, anyway. It’s not like I have another choice. But there was a time where we didn’t take the bus. There was a time—okay, I’ll stop talking like I’ve been around since the ‘30s. This was six years ago. I was seven—or maybe six. I don’t remember at this point.
My brother Max and I always raced to the car to see who’d get there first. He’d take one path, I’d take the other, and we’d meet up, panting, by the pot of purple flowers. Then, sometimes in the winter, the car window would be all fogged up; back then, I used to think fairies brought the dew overnight. And usually it’d clear up by noon. When I got to the car first, I’d squeak my finger over the cold glass, drawing a smiley face on the car window. But my smile would be even bigger than the one on the window when Max reached me, panting, his eyes wide with mock fury.
I always took the left path. It was my path. Never mind that I usually lost. But today, Max wanted a change. “Take right,” he hissed.
“No,” I protested. “I get left.”
He glared at me. “It’s not fair. You always get left.”
“Too bad,” I replied, running to the left.
Suddenly, Dad appeared. “Let Max take left,” he said sternly to me, and I groaned, trudging reluctantly to the right.
“Ready, set, go!” Max screamed from the other end. I started running, running, catching the wind before losing it again. I could see my hand-me-down sneakers hitting the pavement; my shoelaces got tangled and untied, but I didn’t care. I had to win.
Suddenly, I found myself running almost headlong into an old woman. She opened her mouth. I stood there impatiently, trying to get around her. But she took up the entirety of the narrow walkway. “Are you lost?” she said in a kind voice. I didn’t care how kind her voice was. She was in my way. I had to go. I had to win.
“Are you lost?” she repeated. My mind was still racing around her.
“You’re in my way!” I yelled back, feeling guilty but running past her nonetheless as she moved to the right every so slightly.
I lost to Max that day. I was mad, mad, mad. All I ever wanted was to win.
I saw the old woman again every so often. She lived just a few houses down from us. I felt bad when I saw her. So I avoided her. When she had a garage sale, I didn’t go. Max did. He bought me a keychain which I attached to my backpack. It’s still there.
And then, suddenly, it was yesterday. I was doing my homework at the kitchen table, the old one Mom bought at Ikea probably some thirty years ago, the one I swear I’ll be the one to replace. So I was doing my homework—okay, I wasn’t really doing my homework, but I was kind of doing my homework. Like, I was stuck on this same problem for way way way too long. The numbers sort of blurred before my eyes. I was mad because I couldn’t get it. So all I was really thinking was mad mad mad while I stared at my textbook, when suddenly I looked up and saw a flash of red and yellow from the parking lot.
“Hey, Mom, what’s that?” I asked. She didn’t answer. I sighed and went over to the screen door. Slid it open. I could hear the street. Cars, rushing, but closer, there were voices. Voices. I walked out.
The lights—it was an ambulance. I’d never seen one up close like this before. I stood, enthralled, until I saw the ambulance guys run into a house. A house. It was that house. Her house. The one with the yellow on the outside, the ugly cactus shells grinning absurdly through the window. I gasped. It was her. Her, in the stretcher. The old woman.
I didn’t even know her name.
Stumbling, blinded, towards her fence, I felt sick. I could recall myself. Hear my stupid words, all those years ago. You’re in my way. I was stupid. So stupid. Trying to get through, all I’d ever wanted was to win. I didn’t care now. I don’t care anymore. I could have talked to her. I could have known her. But I didn’t. I ran past. I didn’t see time. I didn’t know it had an end.
Aila, my mother said today, our neighbor is dead. You remember her? The old woman who lived in the yellow house? You knew her, right?
Yes, I remembered her. I placed my hand on the old keychain. I’d taken it down yesterday, ripped it from the mesh pocket of my backpack. It was hers, not mine. I felt guilty.
I remember the house. The cactus shells. The searching look in those dark eyes. But I didn’t know her. I still don’t know her. I don’t even know her name.
Story of Chacha
Anna K., 11
Chacha sighed. She was bored out of belief! Normally, she would be chasing the chickens or manipulating people to get revenge on her enemies. She wondered what being the one manipulated would feel like…
Somewhere else, Iris was watching Chacha muse to herself. Chacha was close to the Farm Head. Finally, maybe she would be able to get the chickens! Frontal assaults would be blocked. However, Iris could manipulate Chacha into manipulating the Farm Head, therefore ending with the chickens in Iris’s possession.
Chacha fell asleep. When she “woke up”, she saw the woman who was Iris. She said, “Who are you?” The woman chuckled, “That doesn’t matter now, does it?” Turning to face Chacha she continued, “You are bored, are you not?” When she narrowed her eyes, the woman chuckled, “Do one thing for me, and you’ll never be bored again.” She raised out her hand. Chacha went to grab Iris’s hand and hesitated. The woman looked and seemed nice.... Looking up determinedly, she clasped Iris’s hand and sealed the deal.
On the Streets
Lina Kim, 11
I hissed angrily at the dog in front of me. She had a pink collar with a small golden tag on it with her name: Beatrice. She was a tiny puppy, covered in fluffy white fur. She had floppy ears and pleading eyes. She had a splinter in her front paw.
She yipped in fear and backed away from me. She didn’t even know what was wrong. It doesn’t matter. I pounced on the raw fish that had fallen out of the fisher’s bucket when he was coming home and Beatrice jumped. She watched hungrily as I devoured the flopping, suffocating fish.
I glared at her and she slowly backed up, still watching me. I finished the last of the fish and shot her one last look before swinging my tail and walking away.
I watched the black cat as he walked away. His fur was matted, his left ear was torn, and the fish’s blood was splattered all over the pavement. I stared at it. I had never seen blood before except for when my human pricked her finger when sewing. I had lost my human somewhere. It had been a day since she went missing. Now, I was weak and shaking with hunger. Nothing seemed edible. I just wanted my treats!
I walked out of the small alley and whimpered, looking up at strangers. They never noticed.
I was now a stray dog.
Just Twenty Dollars
“Please,” Lou begs, “please please please pleeeeeeeeeeease! It’s only twenty dollars!” Very soon, my mom relents and hands her twenty dollars. As soon as she’s gone, I turn to my mother.
“Come on mom, you have to stand your ground,” I say, “if she wants money, she can find a job! She has an able body.” She just looks at me, as if to say, what do I do?
“Just say no!” I tell her, “Just refuse to give her your money! You're her mom, she has no right to take things from you! She’s fourteen! Are you really going to let your fourteen year old daughter push you around like that?” My mom is silent, and for a minute I think she’s going to cry, but then she just shakes her head and walks out of the room.
My oldest daughter is kneeling in front of me, begging for twenty dollars. It’s just twenty dollars, I think, I might as well give it to her. I hand her the money and she’s so happy, I ‘m not.
“It’s just twenty dollars,” I say, “and I’ll never ask for any ever again,” my little sister Mia rolls her eyes. She gives me the look that she always does when I say that, I just glare at her. My mom looks down at me helplessly and looking so tragically sad that I almost stop begging, she hands me the money.
When She Left
Pranjoli Sadhukha, 11
I leaned against my locker and pulled out one of my favorite books. Finally, finally I could spend a minute reading. Unfortunately, my hope was sadly far from reality. As soon as I had opened the book, I noticed Paige coming towards me. I buried myself in the story, hoping that she might just pass by. I could feel her pace slowing down. I groaned. She was annoying, loud and clingy. I knew she wanted to befriend me but frankly, I wasn’t interested. Why couldn’t Paige just let me read in this short break I have earned? A lot of people thought I was annoying, because they didn’t understand that books were better company for me. Paige’s smile was way too wide “Hi Addy”. Not bothering to respond, I turned my attention back to my story, wanting to finish a chapter before class started. “A-Addy?” Paige hesitantly asked, thinking, I couldn’t hear her annoyingly high-pitched voice. Frustrated, I said “Go away Paige I’m reading... and for the gazillionth time, its Addison not Addy. ” She fiddled with the thing in her hands. “I just wanted to give you this bookmark I made, you know, because you’re always reading and...well…” she trailed off. “Very nice, now go” I snapped, not even noticing the gift she was holding out. It fell to the floor. Not meeting my gaze, Paige stammered “Well... um... I’m moving after school so... Bye I guess”. I caught a glimpse of her as she slowly walked away. When she was finally gone, I delved back into my book thankfully. I hadn’t even reached the end of the page when the bell rang. “Snap” I muttered, reluctantly tearing my eyes from the engrossing story. I glanced down at the bookmark lying on the dirty tile floor. “Oh well” I thought, “I should probably just use it”. I gasped when I got a closer look at the gift. It was colorful yet soft, pretty yet classy. Why did Paige have to make it so perfect? How did she know exactly how to get to me? It even had a tiny felt book dangling from the string, painstakingly hand stitched. I crammed the bookmark into my page and tossed the book in my locker. Slamming the door, I tried to talk fervently to myself. “It doesn’t matter. I can read in peace now. Things are better this way”. I took one last glance at the bookmark string peeking out from the locker, simple, sweet and genuine work already ripping. I hesitated “Right?...” I almost convinced myself.