Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Halfway through my Boot Camp (working through "Creating Character Emotions" by Ann Hood), and I've covered Anger, Anxiety, Apathy, Confusion, Contentment, Curiosity, Desire, Despair, Excitement, Fear, Fondness, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Grief, Guilt, Happiness, Hate and Hope.

As usual, my exercises run the gamut of completely new world/character concepts, familiar worlds with new characters, different time periods and/or locations, and occasionally, an extension from a current story.

The exercise for Hope involved writing a paragraph depicting hope, contrasted by a second after that hope has failed - despair. The exercise called for three Hope/Despair pairings. It also suggested trying other opposed emotions to show an arc of character growth. This was my third; here there is an implied time-lapse between the first and second paragraph:

Sedra held her arms in an awkward circle, holding her daughter in that mental grip. It did nothing to diminish the distance between them, and so she dropped them, laying her head against the stone wall. Rain drummed against the window, drummed with her heart, drummed with the sound of a messenger who was still – she knew – out of sight. Reports from the front, where her daughter had been badly injured … she closed her eyes, wet her lips, and pictured his face, the casual monotone – how many mothers had he given bad news? But not this time, she prayed, not to any of the gods but to the steady thrum of numbers rushing past. They were on her side. One in five didn’t survive the surgery, but she had only one daughter, not five …

Again, the awkward circle, this time convulsed, tightened, even shaking, though she fancied she jarred her daughter within the circumference. She pictured the face – not the captain she was now, but the child who had come to her side at night and keened for attention – screwed up with protest, batting her away … so far away that Sedra flew, out of the house, across the yard, through the shadow of the trees into some unknown, as if she were the one who had died. On the thought of death, she crumpled, broken of the fancy and tasting its ashes.

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