Write a list of complaints. Focus on the voice of your character, and what the particular complaints tell the reader about that character.
Things To Consider
You can write this as an exaggerated version of yourself and your own complaints about the world—but be wary of doing this if you are not blessed with a strong sense of the ridiculous, or if you’re feeling particularly dark about the world right now. The point of this exercise is NOT to validate your complaints, but to communicate to a reader certain human commonalities.
Start with a character and think about what stage of life they are in, what their hopes are, what their experience of life might have been. Try to write the list the way they would, with an eye to providing context clues for a reader.
You might model your character on someone in public life who frustrates you, inspires you, or confuses you. What would a fabulously wealthy heiress have to complain about (it won’t be nothing). How do those complaints reflect on her? What would an admired philanthropist still grouse about, privately? How would that change a reader’s perspective from the start to the end of the story?
Use the title to tell us whose list of complaints we’re reading (for example, it might read like an advice article in a glossy magazine: World Champion Ice Dancer Melody Swope shares Fourteen Things to Prepare Your PreTeen Ice Queen For When They Go Pro; or How Famed Naturalist Sir Danny Arbuckle Packs For A Trip To The Wilderness, A List of Grievances by Olivia Snyder, Aged 12 1/4).
Write the list as if your character wrote it for their eyes only, because you want to get to the honest parts of the character, the parts they wouldn’t necessarily air on purpose.
Remember to provide a sense of discovery for the reader–they will be searching for meaning, so take them on a journey.
It doesn’t have to be a list of complaints, but do try to pick something that allows you to dig into a particular character and take the reader on a journey.
Be brave. Leave lots of gaps. See what happens.
Julie is the creator of StoryADay May. She tries not to complain too much. If you’d like to receive writing lessons and prompts from Julie throughout the year, consider signing up for the StoryAWeek newsletter.
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