A week ago, I attended a surprise birthday for my little brother (I won’t say how old he is) and saw a number of family members I see too infrequently. It’s my own fault, of course. I’m busy, we’re all busy. At least that’s what I tell myself. Perhaps it’s just the age-old story of people who grow apart over the years, each traveling in his or her own direction, until we lose sight of each other.
I was reminded of all the people I’ve grown close to and then far away from over the years: best friends in grade school, junior high, high school, and college; relatives; coworkers; people I knew in churches or clubs. People I loved at one time. People I thought I’d be close to for the rest of my life, but ended up losing touch with and have no idea where they are now or what they’re doing.
What about you? Are you one of those people who stayed in touch with your best friend from 2nd grade? Or were people just another thing on the stage of life’s constantly changing background? Who have been and who are now the characters in your life? Can you portray them accurately to someone else?
This week’s journal writing prompts are character journaling exercises, designed to trigger memories and help you describe important people from your past, as well as your present.
- Growing up, who was your most positive influence? Was it one of your parents? A sibling? perhaps it was a best friend or teacher. Draw a line down the middle of your page to make two columns and write the name of this character at the top of the page. In the left-hand column, list all the “positive” traits you can remember and in the right-hand column, list all the “negative” traits. Include physical as well as personality traits. Freewrite for ten minutes about the ways this person influenced you.
- Repeat prompt #1, only this time, list the traits of the person you feel influenced you most negatively. Freewrite for ten minutes about the ways this person influenced you.
- Who is or was your all-time best friend? First, list your friend’s traits, as you did in prompt #1. Then write a remembered scene that uses at least three traits from each column. Why is this scene significant to you?
- Find a photograph of someone who was or is important to you in some way. Describe that person physically with as much detail as possible: the shape of her eyes, the lift of his mouth, the color of her skin and hair and eyes, the fragrance of his aftershave, the timbre of her voice. What do you like most about his or her physical appearance, and why?
- Write a dialogue between you and a significant character in your present life. Using only words, gestures, and body language, portray this person as accurately as you can (you can use a real, remembered dialogue or make one up for this exercise). Do not name the person. If possible, have someone who knows both of you read the dialogue and guess the person’s identity.
- Pick a person from your past or present whose family and background is quite different than yours, and complete the following sentence in five different ways: “S/he’s the kind of person who …”
- Finally, characterize yourself. Imagine that you are someone else close to you (either past or present). Using prompt #1 and then prompt #5, write about yourself in the third person, as though you were that person. Was this exercise difficult or easy? Did you portray yourself in a mostly positive or negative light? Freewrite for ten minutes about your responses to this exercise.
Writing about characters in your life—including yourself—is a great way to get to know yourself better. Share something fun or enlightening about one of your characters—leave a comment!