Using the questions below, create a character. This person can be based on people you know or have completely invented. Write a sentence or two describing what the character wants.
What is their name? Age? Gender?
Joseph. Joe. 16 (or at least just into his teenage years. He’s small, so it’s hard to be sure how old he is as he looks younger than he actually is). Male.
What do they look like?
Small for their age. Mousey brown hair, nondescript features. Glasses. Perhaps slightly tubby. Not fat, but not fully grown into their body yet. It’s puppy fat that’s likely to disappear as they get older, but Joe doesn’t know that and is perhaps a little self-conscious about his size.
What’s in their purse or pockets?
He’s probably got a scrappy old pair of binoculars around his neck and a notepad and pencil somewhere in his pockets.
What’s their favourite thing to do?
Be outdoors and not cooped up indoors. Just walking and looking out for wildlife. Joe has a deep love for all wild things.
What do they hate?
Noise. Heat. His love of the countryside means that he doesn’t really like the build-up of houses and shops and roads that tends to come along with any concentration of people. Joe likes quiet and his own company.
What matters to them more than anything in the world?
Animals. Joe is a sensitive soul and he derives a sense of peace from a communion with nature.
Using the character you created above, write a conversation or a situation where this person cannot get what they want. You may find other characters emerge from this—let it happen. Try opening the scene at the main point of tension—for instance, in the middle of a fight— and fill in the necessary details as the scene plays out.
“After you’ve finished your breakfast, I’m going to need your help in the garage.”
Hearing this, Joe’s shoulders dropped almost imperceptibly. He had been planning to spend his day out along the track by the river with Ged, whiling away the time looking to see if he could spot the red kites that had been seen down near the old nature reserve. He paused before answering.
The hesitation hadn’t been for long, but it was long enough to convey his reluctance to his father, who had been looking for it.
“I don’t want to hear any attitude from you about this. You know how important this work is to this family.”
Joe knew from bitter experience that there was no way that he could win this argument. Whatever he said now was going to be leapt upon by his father as a sign of rebellion and insubordination. Even saying nothing was likely to provoke.
Even though he was careful to keep his tone neutral, Joe watched his dad cautiously for further escalations. There seemed to be none forthcoming, so he thought he’d push his luck. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. “What time do you think I might be able to get out later on?”
There was no immediate reply, so Joe pressed on. “I was hoping to get down there whilst it was still light.”
His father looked at him over the kitchen table. “What’s down by the river?”
This felt like a trap and Joe hesitated as he considered his options. As far as he was concerned, the less his father knew about Ged the better. It was bad enough for him already that his son was wasting so much time away from home wasting his time, heaven knows what he might think if he heard his son was hanging around with that weirdo.
“I just wanted to get some air today, that’s all.”
“There’s no fresh air anywhere and I’m not sure it’s safe down there anymore. You know that I prefer you where I can see you. You certainly shouldn’t be going down there on your own.”
“There’s no ‘buts’ about it. You’re not to go down to the river and you’re going to be helping me fix this engine for as long as I need you to be helping me to fix it. Now.”
Joe loathed it when his father finished with a ‘now’. What he meant, of course, was “…and that’s an end to it”, Joe knew this. And yet, every single time, he felt an almost overwhelming urge to shout “NOW WHAT?” back at his father. So far, he’d been wise enough to keep this thought to himself. So far….
Joe wasn’t a bad lad and he’d happily help his father with the engine. Better to bide his time and to slip off out when his father wasn’t looking. If they made decent progress with engine, or if one of his father’s friends called by, then he could look to slip off and his dad probably wouldn’t even notice he had gone. Play the long game, Joe. Play the long game. Don’t blow it for the rest of the summer by being hasty now.