2019 Day 9 – Character Damage

How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

The Prompt

Write A story about the childhood damage of a character you’ll write about tomorrow

Today’s story owes a lot to Lisa Cron’s book Story Genius, in which she talks about how childhood beliefs can become problems for adult characters.

Behaviors that protected your character as a child (for example, an abandoned child’s tendency to keep people at a distance, or conversely to be too clingy, doesn’t serve them well as an adult.)

Every character needs an inner conflict, to make them interesting.

Today write a vivid story about something that happened early in life to a character you’ll come back to, tomorrow.

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

38 thoughts on “2019 Day 9 – Character Damage”

  1. Why didn’t Mama wake up?

    She had her eyes open, but when I talked to her she continued to stare at the ceiling.

    Why didn’t mama wake up?

    I heard noises. Bad noises. Yelling noises. So I got up to see what theses noises were. It was mama and daddy and they were yelling.

    Why were they yelling? Who was crying?

    I went into the kitchen. I did not want to hear them yell at each other. It was quiet in there. I opened the cupboard and removed a couple of pots. They make really loud sounds when you bang them together.

    Bang! Bang! Bang! What fun.

    I need someone to play with. I just turned three years old and I’m seeing the world and the world is exciting. What fun. The floor is tile like a big checkerboard. A lot of the things that are the most fun are out of my reach. It would be great if mama came in and got them for me while I continue to play my music.

    Bang! Bang! Bang!

    Daddy’s always at work. He’s a junior partner, whatever that is, but some of his friends are really nice and they smile a lot when they see me. I smile back.

    I spent the day in my crib. Mama didn’t come in to see how I was doing. She doesn’t do that very much anymore. She sleeps a lot. I don’t need naps, I am a big boy. Grandma says so. Grandma is her mommy. Grandma has a loud voice and a really big laugh and she is lots of fun. She calls me Frosty and I call her Baba. I love Baba.
    It is quiet. So I bang my pots together. When I stop it’s quiet again. They must have quit yelling and went to bed. I know it’s late. It is dark out the windows, I don’t especially care for the dark, but it makes you sleepy, but I’m not at all sleepy.

    Their bed is up the stairs. I have to be careful, because they are afraid I will slip and fall down the stairs, but I’m a big boy now. Let’s change the tempo…

    Bangidy bang!

    Scream.

    Bangidy bang.

    Someone is falling down the stairs.

    I run to see what is going on. The room is dark, but mama is lying at the bottom of the stairs, her beautiful eyes are open. She is not asleep. Maybe she will play with me in the kitchen now that she is awake.

    Mama.

    Silence. Her mouth is open just like her eyes.

    Mama, I say louder, but she just lies there.

    I touch her she does not move.

    Mama.

    Silence.

    Mama wake up, it’s me Frosty.

    Silence.

    Mama why won’t you wake up and play with me?

    Silence.

    Do you still love me?

    Silence.

    I step back, because she hasn’t said it. She just lies there with her eyes and mouth open looking up at the ceiling. Why won’t she look at me? She doesn’t love me anymore. She leaves me all day in my crib while she sleeps. I don’t need a nap. I don’t want a nap.

    Silence.

    I hear dad scream from the upper landing at the top of the stairs. He comes running down the stairs and grabs me by the arm. He takes me to my room. I’m not sleepy, I tell him, but there are tears in his eyes and a look of terror on his face.

    My memory gets fuzzy then. Years later when I was told the whole story. He never told me, but one of his in-laws did. He told me, because he knew that I still was angry when she wouldn’t tell me she loved me. She committed suicide, because she quit loving me and my dad. Only it wasn’t true and he wanted to make sure I knew the truth my father wouldn’t tell me…

    She was depressed. It was 1959 before people really understood the devastating impact of depression. Her doctor gave her pills and she took them, but she took them with booze because it made her feel better. Antidepressants aren’t supposed to be taken with booze, but when her pain got unbearable, she didn’t care anymore. Those she loved the most, she could no longer express it to them. Taking pills with booze made her sleep alot and when dad came home, I had spent the entire day in my crib while she slept. This made him angry. And the hole she was in got deeper until there was no way out. She passed away that evening as I did what I could think to do to wake her never knowing that she was already gone. My dad’s trauma came seeing his three year old son try to wake up his deceased wife at the bottom of the stairs.

    He would tell me as I was growing up that my memories of that night was just a dream, but when I went to describe when he was at the gas station and I put the car into gear and the vehicle began rolling to the street as he and the attendant ran to stop the car. He got quiet. Changed the subject. He was in Korea during the war. He had seen his buddies get killed. And he was taught to “get over it.” And when my mother couldn’t “get over” the death of her father, the death of her mother-in-law, someone she came to admire and her cousin Suzie from cancer, she wasn’t able to get over it.

    It makes me sad that she became a victim of her depression and because of it, I missed out on having a mother. All my other friends had one. When I walked home from my first day of school, I walked alone while everyone else had their mothers waiting for them.

    I am not writing this because I am trying to get pity, quite the opposite, I am writing this to heal from wounds that are from the earliest memory of my childhood. Dad married again and this woman became my mother. Her name was Carole and she never once let me doubt that I was her son.

  2. September Day 9
    I wrote a second draft again for this challenge. It was of the story I wrote for May 2019. It’s developing well.

  3. My character is a young woman in the 1800 west whose mother died the day she was born. Her father hates her for this and she lives in a house with brothers who grudgingly help to raise her until the father dies from drink. The dad refuses to acknowledge her except when he is heaping abuse on her and soon the boys learn to do this as well. She makes many attempts over the years to gain her father’s love, but no success.

    This continues the story of the main character in my rough (very rough) novel outline. I will increase the dialogue in rewrites, but for now, at least it’s down on paper – lol.
    Willi

  4. Anna has to work around dissembling childhood rules around food: clean your plate- think of the starving children in Africa; no dessert until your plate is cleaned; you’ll sit there until you’ve finished.

    1. You know what strikes me as I read through people’s comments?

      How much the world needs these stories.

      It’s easy to think we don’t have anything ‘important’ to say, but we do. All of us. Because we are alive and living our experiences and thinking about them, and hoping for better for the people who come after us.

      I applaud everyone who is writing their stories. Thank you!

  5. I really enjoyed this prompt. I wrote about former child TV star who has had problems dealing with his fame and demise in show business. I wrote this in script form. because I thought that it suited the story. I also really enjoyed writing in this style. I may write more scripts in the future!

    1. Oh that’s interesting. I’ve done monologues and all kinds of forms, but never scripts. This seems so appropriate to your topic, too!

  6. So far I’ve been happily lurking, but today’s prompt led me in a strange direction which I thought I’d share in case it’s useful for anyone else.

    The way the prompt is written seems to suggest unhappy situations — abandonment, abuse, etc. — and I didn’t want to write that. But on reflection, I realized that damage can also come from happier situations and relationships. The story I ended up writing (which needs a lot of revision, but I got it done) is about a different kind of damage, when an overheard compliment that gets internalized as an expectation. I think there are lots of other ways that something intended as a kindness could end up as a burden instead, and I wanted to share that perspective for people who might want to think of this from a different angle.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking prompt!

  7. This was an unexpected result for me. The project I’ve been pulling from for these was the April Camp NaNo where the question focused on ‘Could you forgive?’ Since one of my main character’s childhood stories unfolds already, thought I’d focus on his two best friends and did not expect to find myself drawing a bit on an incident of my own. Curious as to what tomorrow’s prompt will be.

  8. i appreciated the prompt. It was the backstory for Linnie who i began a story on this week. The problem i’m having is my character linnie from my story is age 15. Yet when i’m talking about her childhood with this prompt, I’m doing it from a grown up Linnie perspective. I know it will all come together and i’m just happy to be writing & thankful for the May challenge. i realize my piece needs alot of work and thoughtful editing. I’m definitely learning what I don’t know in the writing process and that’s a good thing.

  9. Woo hoo this is my longest streak in years! Made it through with the prompt- ended up wasting a fair bit of time looking up Old German but I got the story down of village burning down and little girl finding out her mother lied about her family. Can’t wait to revisit this Schnuckelchen!

  10. I wrote! I skipped the prompt today, although I love the idea. I was going through my notes from the Creativity Challenge Workbook, for motivation, and I ended up writing a story from a landscape photo my wife took a few years ago when we were dating. It’s wonderful all the associations an image can shake loose. Feeling refreshed.

    1. I find photography really sparks creativity! I may need to pull some out as writing inspiration for when I get stuck. Good job!

    2. That’s great, Kevin. Doesn’t it feel GOOOOOOD to write? Glad your notes from the Creativity Challenge Workbook were helpful.

  11. Loved this prompt. I went back to a character I created a couple days ago for my flash fiction and gave her a backstory. And it’s one I can really dig into.

  12. The prompt is perfect timing! I was just watching one of Lisa Cron’s Creative live classes yesterday. Feels serendipitous.

    1. It’s getting serious, it’s mining my childhood, which was…imperfect, like many, if not most. There was daily emotional abuse which had a huge impact on my adult life. Yes, I have coping mechanisms that helped the child and hurt the adult. Oh, wait, am I supposed to make this up? Let’s pretend I did. I love this prompt for making me go there. I also love that it’s a step towards tomorrow’s prompt. Just wrote 3 pages and rambled way too much– good stuff for a novel but I need to go back and really drill down to one specific scene that illuminates and individualizes what it felt like. Love and cheers to all y’all!

      1. Cheers to you Dawn. i too mined my past and along that line of thinking, we are discovering jewels, not to mention the therapeutic value !!

      2. I’ve been amazed at how much of my childhood creeps into my writing. I knew exactly what I was going to write about with this prompt–no tip-toeing around–and how it will evolve tomorrow!

    2. I enjoyed your piece. i especially liked your opening lines, I found them strong & wanting to know more. That is something i have to work on. Was Juss a play on justice?

  13. I have written a short story about a character’s experience taken from my own childhood experience and how that shaped some of my own personality growing up. I think I will build on this for tomorrow’s prompt too:)

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