I’m currently working on fleshing out characters using different methods. Summary, Repeated action or Habit, Appearance and Speech. Struggling with speech the most. Here are my efforts so far. It’s a character of have an idea for a short story. I hope each of the methods sound like it’s the same character!
She was never as content as when she was nursing a child. From her two younger brothers when she was not long out of nappies herself, to the most recent addition to her family, her first great grandchild, she had this almost profound ability to soothe and pacify even the most tantrum prone child. Her children were in awe of this ability and called her the baby whisperer. She herself retained a characteristic modesty about it, and presumed her skills were unneeded until she was called upon, like a benevolent goddess. Every night she would make a long entry in a diary that she kept hidden away in a box under her bed. Each entry began “My darling Tom” and always ended with” I love you and miss you so much” and sometimes, on dark days,” I really don’t know how I can go on.” The only other item in the box was an opaque plastic bag of items returned to her from the hospital. It contained a pipe and a half empty tin of tobacco, a pair of glasses and a blue plastic hospital identity bracelet; the name and hospital number smudged and faded, the clasp broken. Over time the aroma of the tobacco had seeped out of the bag and into the box, infusing it with its scent and she would put her face into the box, breathing in the memory of him. These nocturnal sojourns into memory were kept from her children. She would not burden them with her pain and felt ashamed that she still felt so lost.
Habitual or Repeated Action Method:
She rose every day before dawn and would float around the house like a ghost. As the sun began to give some definition to the day, she would begin the task of tethering herself to it. First she would put on her dressing gown tying it purposely at the waist. In the kitchen she would put on the kettle and toss two slices of bread into the toaster. As the kettle boiled she would hover over the toaster, drumming her fingers on the work surface industriously, waiting for the soft bread to harden and brown under the direct and ferocious heat of the elements. As she sat with a steaming mug of tea looking out at the garden she would feel, with some relief, that with breakfast completed she had officially signed up for the day ahead, and she was never one to renege on her duties. On certain days however, usually those short opaque days of winter when even the sun struggled to get motivated, she would feel herself drifting again and she would fear that, given a brisk enough wind, she would become undone and float away.
Her brows were slightly raised and drawn together over blue grey eyes, not frowning but rather creating a sort of barricade against an emotion that had risen to ascendancy in the years following her husbands’ death. She wore cheerfulness like an armour and weaponised optimism and positivity, ready to deploy them at a moment’s notice if she feared her nocturnal demons were rising too soon. Sometimes, without warning, the barricade would wobble and she would widen her eyes, and purse her thin lips into a determined line and by sheer force of will the defences would hold. This was who she presented to the world; the strong resilient widow who kept herself trim and didn’t look her age and who was always there for her family. However as night fell and she found herself alone in a house that was unbearably empty, her edges would begin to blur and soften and she would deflate into her armchair, thin long fingered hands hanging motionless over its arms, her wedding ring slipping slowly down to her knuckle.
“Mum! Where have you been? We’ve been worried sick”
She brushed past them to the front door, handbag open and pressed under her arm, handle trailing on the ground, with her other hand she tried to open the door
“Oh, sorry love, I’ve just been to my group”
“Your group?” Sarah, her youngest, was puzzled “What group?”
She gave up struggling with the door and turned to face Sarah
“You know. My computer group? Surfers of the Third Age? They’re helping me with that laptop you bought me. Now, be a love and open the door for me and I’ll get the kettle on”
“But I thought you met at the library?” said Sarah still puzzled
“Yes, that’s right love. Where’s my little Benji? Has he got a match today?”
“But it’s Sunday” said Sarah “and the library’s shut”
She paused for a second on the front step and clutched her bag closer to her side.
“I guess they must have opened up special for them, they’re a popular group. Now get the door open Sarah, I really need the loo!”