Writing 101: Day SIX: Character Study
Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?
Our stories are inevitably linked to the people around us. We are social creatures: from the family members and friends who’ve known us since childhood, to the coworkers, service providers, and strangers who populate our world (and, at times, leave an unexpected mark on us).
Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.
Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.
In displaying the psychology of your characters, minute particulars are essential. God save us from vague generalizations! – Anton Chekhov, Letter to Alexander Chekhov; May 10, 1886
Don’t just list their features. Tell us something about how their physical appearance shapes the way they act and engage with others. For example, see how the author of this moving photo essay, which documents the final weeks of a woman dying of cancer, captures the kernel of the woman’s spirit with a short, masterful statement: ‘Her eyes told stories that her voice didn’t have the power to articulate and she had a kindness that immediately made me feel like we had been friends for years.’ Give us a glimpse of what makes this person unique. We all have our own quirks, mannerisms, and individual gestures, both physical and linguistic.
I can still see her in my mind’s eye, sitting placidly by the window or in her comfortable cushioned chair, surrounded by her prayer books, rosary and other spiritual paraphernalia. Sometimes it would be some women’s magazine from which she would be jotting down recepies or beauty tips ! I still remember the one where you smeared sugar over acne or pimples, for a quick way to smoother skin, or swathed a burn with toothpaste to avoid blisters ! A typical ‘grandmother remedy’, albeit borrowed, that always worked. My grandmother was not the overtly religious, ritualistic kind. But she was spiritual — exceedingly so. Those times that I sat with her, taking a break from routine, hectic activity, a calm descended on me. Something peaceful crept into all our interactions! She had that effect on people. Was she pious then ? I wouldn’t say so, not in the way it is usually meant, which is being sanctimonious. With her gentle eyes and soft voice, humorous and wise at once, she filled people with a reassuring delight. Her keen observations on life and situations, tongue-in-cheek opinions on people, punctuated by that candid comment or an unexpected insight — my grandmother never ceased to surprise me.
She was loving and caring to all of us, her five grandchildren, but I like to think she had a soft corner for me, her eldest grandchild. Out of all the compliments that I cherish is the one from my granny saying appreciatively to me, “you are the prettiest, today you look like a film star” ! Was it merely a sardonic tongue-in-cheek observation, a loving exaggeration or was it to boost my morale, during a difficult time? I’ll never know and it does not matter, for, that after-comment glow lingers on still !
When she passed on, gently, as in life so in death, something imperceptibly caved within me. I knew I’d lost a kindred soul, a person who understood me at my core, more than my parents, siblings or friends. I could stop to grieve as I did many a time in the past, but when I close my eyes and think of her, I see her bright, twinkling eyes in that wrinkled face lighting up when she smiled. I see her willing me to believe in myself and move on.