Dig out your Short Story Framework again, and this time let’s plan a story that features a character who might be you, but very much isn’t. Let them react in ways you never would, never could, to whatever obstacles you throw at them.
- When trying to get inside the head of this person, it can be useful to think of someone you actually know who is very different from you. Think of someone who does things that you would never do, that you despise, or that you secretly admire. Start with their external actions (what do they do when someone cuts them off in traffic that is so different from what you do, for example.) Backtracked from there to try to figure out what is going on in their head and their heart in that moment.
- Put this character in a situation where there is conflict or stress and where their reactions are going to be really different from how you would react. Write the reactions, and as you’re doing so, unpack the story behind this person.
- Don’t worry about trying to have a clever plot in this story. It can be something as simple as: this person gets cut off in traffic and how they react. The point of this exercise is to investigate the psyche of somebody very different from you. There’s a danger in always writing characters that are too sympathetic or similar to yourself.
- Writing about somebody you dislike or someone unlike you can be very difficult. To make them more sympathetic, give them something there really, really good at. They might be charismatic. They might be really good engineering. But everyone has some areas where they are competent even if they are incompetent in every other sphere that matters to you!
- This is not an exercise in writing a villain. This is an exercise in writing someone very different from yourself. It could be someone you admire.
Julie is the creator of StoryADay May. She created the challenge in 2010 when she realized she was spending so much time daydreaming about ways she could have lived different lives that she might as well write some of them down as stories!
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16 thoughts on “Day 22- If You Were Not You by Julie Duffy”
I kept this one short, because I’m almost caught up, but I’ll be working this into my writing practice. It felt powerful to deliberately work with unfamiliar characteristics. It stretched my mind in good ways. Thank you for the prompts.
Day 21 ✔️
I thought this was a really cool prompt and I’m planning to keep it to come back to again. But! I did write this day!! Rough stuff, but it’s on the page 🙂
Story #22 complete!
Day 22 completed ✔️!
This prompt was challenging for me — a very good ‘stretch’ exercise.
Day 22 in the books!
This was probably the most difficult prompt. I started one, got about 400 words in but didn’t like where it was going so I started a second one. I’m not really sure where this one is going. Not really happy with it but will try to finish it later. Or I might return to the first one.
I picked the most annoying person I could think of to write from her POV. She’s also sort of crazy so that made it easier to add craziness to the story. In my story, she arrives without warning at her sister-in-law’s in another state with her bags and dog. A bit of brawling actually occurs, which made me happy to put into the story, since most of my tales don’t turn that wild. I came up with a way to make her leave her sister-in-law’s house that I hadn’t expected. The only thing I’m wondering is, since you’re supposed to LIKE your main character, how do I approach that aspect? Hmmm, maybe I can add how nice she is to her dog? Even though her dog’s a real pain too. 😉
I enjoyed the prompt and wrote a 564 story. It’s about a current situation I see between two adults I know. I would never interfere, but in my story, I told one of them exactly how I felt about the way they were treating the other one.
I was letting this prompt trip me up. Just going too big or too much into plot. So I distilled it down to one moment, and that worked. First draft flash in the bag. Day 22 and still going. Huzzah!
This was a great opportunity to explore ways to respond to a situation in a way I wish I could but that I know I shouldn’t.
A complete story.
I didn’t feel well this morning and couldn’t come up with an idea, although I loved the prompt. I felt I needed to give up for today. The first day (according to my rules) I would miss.
But then I had an hour time in the afternoon and I just sat down and started to write (without a story framework) about the bit of qn idea I had developed by now. i ended up with 1234 words and a half ending that states a question I have to think about wome other time.
I’m just glad I made it agsinst the odds!
I did a sort of double switch. I picked someone I like but am very different from in certain situations. Then I put my MC in a situation like that, but reversed or at least changed most of the specifics. One thing that struck me was that as I wrote, this MC’s backstory began to take concrete shape in my head. I didn’t try to write it down for this exercise, but it was there to use if I needed it.
I wrote 430 words of dialogue, based on something that happened on Easter, and all the things I *wished* I’d said instead of just shutting down.
Wistful Me !
“I have told you several times that I haven’t earned money with my sweat and blood for doing charities. Please never try to forget that.Yea, I agree that I want to do something for the needy. I hope God will provide me with enough opportunities to fulfill this dream of mine in the near future.” Rathin, trying to justify his action, told his daughter, Priya, soon after his childhood friend, Tapan had left hurriedly.
Tapan had turned up earlier in the day. Rathin, true to his nature, tried to dismiss him from the gate itself. But his friend was too smart for that.
“Can I have a glass of water?” Having got inside, he asked while wiping the beads of sweat on his forehead with a hankerchief.
Now how could you refuse someone a glass of water? Besides, offering a glass of water didn’t cost any money. In fact, it brought one merits.
Naturally, Rathin went in for fetching the glass of water, not really knowing that Tapan was close behind.
He had hardly brought the bottle from the freezer when he saw Tapan taking his shoes off near the door.
“Can I come in?” Tapan asked, stepped in and sat on the sofa without the least bit of hesitation.
Tapan had scarcely drunk the glass when he started talking to Priya.
“Are you a college student?”
“No,” replied Priya, as amicable as ever. “I’m already employed.”
“Is that so? Where do you work?”
“At TCS.” She answered truthfully.
“Tapan, she has an exam today. So, if you don’t mind, you can come some other time..” Unable to think of any other pretexts, Rathin cut in tamely.
“Can you lend me five hundred? I’ll return it as soon as I can.” Tapan asked him next without any preamble.
“Are you crazy? You know I’ve been out of work for years since the pandemic (deliberately not reminding him that he had worked in a bank for thirty years prior to that). How can you ask for money like that?” He screamed and went on to add,” Besides, I don’t believe in lending money. Spoils relationships, you know. I also don’t like you coming into my room like that and disturbing my daughter. I told you that she has her example!”
Tapan, who had taken some girls’ stuff like hair bands, hair clips and so on out of his bag, was asking the daughter if she would be interested in buying anything from him.
Priya kept her book down, took a close look at the proffered things and said, much to her father’s dismay. “How much is the hairband? I really like the pink one.”
Though Rathin tried to give her every signal possible not to buy anything from that rascal, she was asked to pay fifty rupees for it, when the most expensive ones didn’t cost more than twenty five or thirty rulers!
Having pocketed the money, Tapan left soon afterwards.
Part – II
Some years down the line, his daughter’s school mate, Bipasa, visited one day. Rathin was sitting in the drawing room when she entered and touched his feet.
“How are you, uncle?”
Rathin not known as the most social of parents, looked up at her from behind the paper, smiled and went back to reading.
Priya asked her to sit on the sofa near the tv with the movie “Sholay” (and popular movie about true friendship) on. She came back with a cold drink and some chips on a plate after a while.
“So, Bipasa. What a pleasant surprise! How is life?”
Rathin, despite himself (?), found himself eavesdropping into their conversation from behind The ToI.
“Yaar, Priya. I’m in serious trouble.”
He had a feeling that she was looking in his direction at that time, making up her mind whether to say what she did finally. “My company has sent me to furlough due to the downsizing. I have been in serious debts. Called some friends for help but you know how most of them are. I could only think of you as my last resort…”
Was she sobbing? Rathin was sure that the lump in her voice was more pretentious than real.
“How much do you want?” He heard Priya asking.
This girl, he muttered to myself, would never grow up.
“I need some fifteen thousands…badly.” Rathin heard the girl he considered a cheat, whispering.
“Dear Bipu, you know how I have invested heavily into Mutual Funds and Shares. I don’t keep cash with myself. Wait, I do have some twelve thousand in the bank. I can give you a cheque if you want…”
Priya was her generous and gracious self as ever and made him nearly jump out of the chair. She caught him putting the paper down, withdrew into her room and came out after a minute or two.
Bipasa couldn’t thank her enough as Rathin looked daggers at her first before fixing his gaze on Priyanka next, trying to convey the message of not making such a fool of herself.
“There’s no point lecturing you. For you would always be a child and never learn about the ways of the world.” Rathin blurted out after Bipasa had left.
” Let me be, Dad. Helping people in dire need, makes me happy.” She replied politely.
Rathin looked after her retreating figure and thought about the scores of friends he could have helped.