character descriptions

For the Love of Language

The following is by Writers in the Grove member Steve Morse. It is based upon the prompt: “What would Shakespeare make of a modern library?”

Noam Ludwig Shakespere strolled eager through the great glass doors into the mystic halls of the sacred Word. Unfolding infinite in all direction a demesne of towering tomes, each a dedication, a devotion to the Word. Not any particular word, but a world where each word is Holy. Each syllable and sibilant phoneme, each lengthy, nonsensical, joyously opulent example of ostentatious onomatopoeia. From “See Spot Run” to dimestore detectives and the dreadful, dark domains of Dante’s infernal circles. A linguistic lair where Lovecraftian nightmares dance gaily upon gambrel roofs, where George’s Dragon glares greedily at the gleaming golden horde beneath the belly of Smaug, and children sit rapt in tales of Pooh.

Poets and philosophers, scientists and theologians, the Mighty, the mini and the uncounted multitude come to pay homage in these hallowed halls of mystery and imagination, dedication to the sacred words that have changed us all, charting the human course through antediluvian epochs to the star strewn future.

Noam wandered far, seeking and soaking in the sanctified spirit, leaving long behind him the realm of Known, only to look around and find he’d barely begun.

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Veteran’s Day

The following is from Writers in the Grove member Gretchen Keefer.

November 11 – Veterans’ Day

Michael’s number was low. He knew that sooner rather than later he would go. After careful deliberation he decided not to take the available alternatives. He felt they were cowardly excuses. Michael did not entirely agree with the politics; he only knew he had to defend the principles of freedom, choices and self-government.

It was in December of his junior year of collage that the expected letter arrived. When he left home on the appointed day his mother cried, his father solemnly shook his hand, his brother hugged him. His friends did not come to see him off because they were embarrassed, or in Canada.

In his letters home Michael told very little about his war experiences. He characterized the other men and related humorous events. He described the food and the lush green of the country – but never the illness or the duplicity of the natives. He completed his assignments, supported his companions, earned distinctions. He didn’t wear the medals he had earned, and didn’t tell his family how many buddies he had watched die.

When Michael came home, his service honorably completed, he was reviled by other young people and ignored by employers. Every time a car backfired or a door slammed, he jumped. His temper grew shorter, his focus diffused. Although the government would have paid, he did not complete his college education, and eventually took a mechanic’s job. He married, divorced, drank, drifted.

Today we say we have learned from those difficult lessons of the 1970’s, and we thank our veterans for their service. However, war has not changed; the experiences are still not describable, and vets still are startled by loud noises.

Prompt: Missed Connections

There is a series called “Missed Connections” that features description of personal encounters, where someone saw somebody and it made an impression on them. “I saw you standing in line at Starbucks with red hair and I thought you were so beautiful.” The idea is to figure out if you are or know the person described.

Did someone write about you, or say something about you, that doesn’t match your perception of yourself? Describe the experience.

Prompt: It’s About the Details

The prompt this week comes from Agatha Christie, Dumb Witness, a continuation of studying the setting of a scene, and the details you choose to set up the characters and the scene in general.

We were directed to the coffee room, a room of fine proportions, a room of tightly shut windows and an odor of stale food. We had some excellent mutton, large slabs of water cabbage, and some dispirited potatoes. Some rather tasteless stewed fruit and custard followed. After Gorgonzola and biscuits the waiter brought us some doubtful fluid called coffee.

Write a paragraph using the details that defines the scene or a character.

To Be a Bee in Their Bonnets

This is by Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen, inspired by Prompt: The Party Conversation.

She walked over to the counter with the coffee. Appearing relaxed, she’d floated across the room, not a care in the world, back turned to the thirty or forty people chatting away behind her, no ripple in her wake.

I knew the moment the two sat next to each other that this was an oil-meets-flame moment. Against the black leather couch, her swept-up blond hair back-lit by the orange glow of the porcelain lamp behind them, white silk blouse shimmering around her bare neckline, tinged gold in the amber lighting, contrasted strongly against his dark curls, evening shadow along cheeks and chin above the freshly ironed, crisp linen long sleeve shirt. Beauty and beauty, I thought. That is what others will see. The perfect couple. But I knew them. Beauty and the beast with no happy love song or shared interest between them.

He was the gentle one, razor sharp on the outside, marshmallow opinions on the inside. Nothing Ray ever did in his life caused conflict or disorder. It was all about order, precision with self, never others.

She was all angles, knives and chains in her soul, soft and wispy on the outside. Her tongue left bloody slices on the delicate in her wake.

A small part of me was intrigued to see the fireworks these two could spark, yet terrified of the showdown that could happen right in front of everyone. The only saving grace and commonality the two shared was decorum, spelled with a capital D. This wasn’t just a noun to them. It was a law.

“Let no one see you sweat,” was her motto. She meant it in life as well as exercise. A hard-boiled attorney, she could make knees quake the moment she stepped into a court room.

“Never let them see your pain,” was his mantra, determined to not let anyone feel, see, or experience pain, never to share his own as well. Pain was for wimps, those not strong enough to endure. As a doctor, he’d listen but never absorbed the experience of his patients. Sympathy, yes, but empathy? That was lacking in his psychic gene pool.

Introducing Callie to Ray, I stepped back, wine glass in hand, and watched, drifting into the shadows of the party’s energy, my specialty. “Never let them see you,” was the invisible line on my personal calling card.

They were casual at first, toes dipped in the pool of conversational politeness. I knew Ray would never touch politics or religion, so they were safe there, but I knew Callie hated small talk, not caring about weather, sports, modern entertainment, or gossip. She was a political body, a raging Democrat from hair follicle to toe nail. He was a soft Republican, not religious, not greedy, just determined to keep his own.

I couldn’t tell what lit the embers to a slow burn. His face tightened. Her lips froze into a plastic smile. I thought a coffee interruption might part the stormy waters. Both smiled at me, fury in their eyes. I passed the full coffee cup to Callie, then Ray, and faded back into the crowd.

By the time she stood up to walk away ten minutes later, her cheeks flamed, hand gripped the coffee cup to breaking. His face was white, teeth and hands clenched.
Ah, to have been a bee in their bonnets. I watched and licked my lips, eager for more.