I’d like to try something new to add on here – I call it “Character Files.” In my struggle to find some kind of story inspiration some time ago, I purchased a book called Writerific II: Creativity Training for writers by Eva Shaw, which offers encouragement, but most importantly, writing prompts for the creative writer.
One such prompt, has a page full of groups of words. Each group of three words is meant to inspire a story, by using each word in a story or situation that you may create. I decided to take it a step further, and as such created – Character Files.
Each group of words inspired me to create a character, someone who may or may not have a story – a character that I could store away in a file with other characters I created, that I could return to and use that character for story inspiration if need be.
There are a lot of word groups in the writing prompt, and I’ve only created a few different characters already. But I was pleased with the different results. This particular example took me to a place and genre that I don’t normally write, but it allowed for some nice practice of sensory images. Here goes…
The words are: pigeon voltage train
He is a nobody, tall and willowy with a pale face, and dark brown hair. His back is straight as he sits on the park bench in his navy blue conductor’s uniform, his long legs bunched up in front of him as he reads the newspaper.
Looking at him, no one would know that he’s killed someone and framed somebody else for it, although, he twitches occasionally at every other sentence he reads. His brown eyes squint, his face bunches and then goes straight. Two-thousand volts of electricity frying their way through his veins. It could have been him. The memories eat at him, peck at his brain like a flock of crows.
The sight of the butchered man he killed in the alley late that night. The rain pouring in his ears and over the curve of disgust on his lips. The bastard he caught sleeping with his wife…maybe he should have killed her too.
He smelled the rain that night, and he never smelled anything more visceral. Felt his thoughts mix with the sewage and the blood water that swirled around the man’s body, the man that he killed, a milkman, another nobody. What was so important about this stranger that made his wife take her pants off?
He thought, just once – it was a fleeting thought really – that maybe he should be down in the sludge and the darkness of the alley, too. Let the smell of something putrid, the river of feces, blood and rain water pour over him. Feel the fear of something cold and slimy creep its way across his bare skin. Let it feed off of him for a moment and taste the sponginess of his brain, the holes there, the parts that were missing that tasted brown, like something sweet and rotting. Let blood pour out of his nose and his eyeballs bounce down his face. Let him feel hell just once.
Instead, he swiped at the water on his chin, shook his head like a dog, shivered once, pulled his coat around his shoulders and walked home. The knife he used on the stranger who was defiling his wife, he hid in his cousin’s apartment, still wet, the blood dripping.
The next day, while drinking his morning coffee, he placed a call to his local police department to let them know that his cousin, an alcoholic and a man who occasionally liked to feel up little girls, was in town and that he came around the other day begging for money. His cousin had threatened him with a knife, which the conductor described to the police in great detail. A butcher’s knife, he said and then shuddered with a slight catch in his throat. There were groves and barbs on the blade, the kind that shreds through skin when you use it. Mostly likely cut a man in two. Or remove somebody’s head.
The next day he read the front headline of the newspaper while he sat on a park bench on his lunch break: Child Molester Arrested for Murder. He folded the newspaper carefully and tucked it under his arm. The sun felt warm and soft on his navy blue uniform and he looked down at his shiny, black shoes and smiled to himself. It was going to be an excellent day.