Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Character Who Steals Your Life - Voice Sketch for Week 5

Here's a quick description of how to approach this weeks assignment.  Your focus in this work of fiction is capturing specific details with with you're intimately familiar, but then changing the perspective of the main character to reveal these details in a different light.



Writing Your Evil TwinFor this piece, the goal is to use familiar details (e.g. your daily habits, where you went to school, etc.) and attach them to a voice that is not your own (i.e. the voice of your evil doppelganger...)

This character does not necessarily need to be evil or malicious - this fictional character just needs to have your life, or a fictional life filled with details that you yourself know very well.  For example, I might write a story about someone in the military, but I then switch the base the person was assigned to, maybe have the person serving as kitchen staff at Fort Drum.  I've never been to Fort Drum, but I did work on KP (Kitchen Patrol) a few times while in Basic Training down at Fort Jackson.  I also worked as a banquet server for a few months after being discharged, so I have a decent idea of what it's like back in the kitchen.  I can combine that with some of the "personalities" that I met while enlisted, and choose from that group a unique voice which is clearly not my own.  Perhaps I'd write about a character who sits in the corner staring at the wall, or write about someone who really glorifies all things military.  Or maybe I'd pick some kid who joined the army because he really had nothing better to do:
"Dude," he said, scooping mashed potatoes onto the tray, "we are so gonna rock it out there.  Iraq's gonna be freakin' awesome, man."
Note the juxtaposition here: Iraq, mashed potatoes, and "awesome."  This character clearly has some confusion about the nature of "awesome."  If we threw in some more details about how he wipes grimy hands on his stained apron and always wears his paper server's hat to one side, then we'll get a good idea of who he is.

Weight Each Detail With Perspective
Note that my example was in third-person - for this assignment, I'd like you to write in first-person.  Show us not only the details, but also what your narrator thinks of these details.  Be as specific as you can.
So there I was, serving the breakfast line, and some sergeant comes in and tells me to fix my cap.  Right, cause he thinks he owns the place.  "Right away, sergeant," I tell him, grabbing a tray off the pile.  And he's staring at me the whole time as I'm scooping eggs and hash onto his tray, like I'm some kind of insect or something.  So I ask him he wants bacon or sausage, and he tells me he wants both, and I'm like "Sorry, Sergeant, you only get one," but that's not good enough for him.

He leans forward, putting his face right over the sneeze guard - and you know that's a code violation. "I'm gonna talk to your NCO about your attitude," he says.

"All the Way, Sergeant," I say, and I hand him his tray - no sausage, no bacon, no nothing.  Just two mushed-up lumps of eggs and hash. And he stares at that tray like it's gonna grow a fungus or something. But whatever - someone should talk to his NCO about attitude.

I really got get to Iraq. There's no way we're putting up with this kind of BS over there.

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