Character assassination

I’m struggling tonight. I signed up to an online short story course that specialises in writing for women’s magazines. Why? I hear you ask. You already write short stories… Well yes, I do. But not usually the type you might see in a ‘womag’. I submitted to a couple back when I was just starting out and didn’t have any success. I wasn’t really phased by this as I realise there are many, many extremely talented womag writers out there and I’m really not sure I’m cut out to be one. (plus, back in the early days, a lot of what I wrote was complete garbage!) I do *try* to create sympathetic characters, but then I get a paragraph in and they’ve already decided to torture and kill someone…  This week’s assignment was to write about a character that wakes up in an unusual place, fine, you think – easy… at the bottom of a well, locked in a cupboard, tied to a radiator etc. But NO… it has to fit the womag demographic and I’m not sure these do. Maybe it’s just not my bag. Hence I am struggling.

I’d appreciate any thoughts on the following… note that it is not meant to be a story, it is just meant to convey enough about a character that you might believe that they *have* a story…

P.S. I haven’t even edited it so it might suffer from a bit of clunk

Character Exercise

She woke to a sudden burst of raindrops hammering on the window like a handful of thrown stones. She lifted her head too quickly and lights danced in front of her eyes. She retched, felt like she might throw up. She didn’t remember going to bed with a migraine, but that wasn’t unusual. She’d been having them almost daily the past few months and sometimes she lost whole days with it. ‘Mike?’ she said, turning her head to the left to look for him. Her pillow felt harder than usual, almost like it wasn’t a pillow at all. Mike didn’t answer, because he wasn’t there… and as Emma woke up fully, spotted the twisted steering wheel and the pile of tiny glass cubes on her lap, it became clear that she wasn’t in bed at all. ‘Mike?’ she said again. Her voice wavered as she felt the beginnings of panic begin to crawl into her stomach. Still no answer. The passenger-side door was open. Maybe he’d gone to get help? She pulled herself up in her seat and surveyed the damage. Small cuts peppered both hands and she frowned, realising she’d lost one of her new nails. She’d managed to keep them shiny and chip-free for nearly a week now and that wasn’t easy to do when she spent all day bashing them against a keyboard. The rear view mirror was bent downwards so she pushed it back into position and took a good look at herself. A few more cuts on her face, her hair looked a bit ruffled and her eyeliner had run a bit, but other than that she didn’t look too bad. Where are you Mike? she said to herself. She had no recollection of the accident. The last thing she remembered was having a chicken Caesar salad on front of the TV while her husband pottered about in the garage, banging, crashing and tinkering as usual. For some reason, she must’ve gone for a drive, but it seemed an odd thing to do on a dark Wednesday night. She’d had a glass of wine too. More than one, in fact. She’d never have driven after that. Think, Emma, think!

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8 thoughts on “Character assassination

  1. That’s great! Interesting scenario and you have posed questions which I want answered. You don’t waste time getting into it – I’m hooked from the beginning – keep going with this one, please.

  2. Thanks Dionne. I will, I’ve got 600 words to play with and this is just over 300. I just wanted to know I was on the right track for the exercise – do you think I am? Am I ‘showing’ a character? Sometimes when you think of the technicalities, you start tying yourself in knots…! I’m not sure what I’m hoping to gain from this course, but it does include marked critiques so I think it is worth it for that, even if I decide that women’s mags are not my forte!

  3. Thanks Sakina. I wanted to show that she was interested in her appearance as much as she was confused about what had happened and where her Mike was. I need to keep writing it, see where it goes 🙂

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