Open University – Start writing fiction – 1.3 Sources of characters Assignment: Imagine a character very like you but give him or her a dramatic external alteration. You might make the character the opposite sex, for example, or make them significantly older or younger. You choose.Now write a brief character sketch in which you reveal the character’s appearance, their feelings about it, and their current circumstances. Use a third-person narrator (‘he’ or ‘she’). This character is very much like me, but I changed her race and made her single instead of married.
Sara shimmied into the warm restaurant through the throngs of people, tightening her coat as girls her age around her shed their outerwear and slung them over tables and empty barstools. The restaurant smelled of garlic and olives and full-bodied wine. Very American-Italian. Not Italian-American, an important distinction. A bad choice for a blind date. Too loud, to aromatic, too warm, too trendy. Trying too hard. Just the kind of place Amy would pick. She wasn’t ready for what her sister would call “the big reveal.” She’d let Amy make her up. The works. Dark-rimmed eyes that made the gold in her green eyes glow, pouty red lips, something called contouring, very popular with the reality star set, that made her already prominent alabaster cheekbones even more angular. Her chocolate brown hair was shiny and blown out, hanging sleekly just beneath her shoulders and parted down the middle. She’d let Amy talk her into heels. Stilettos! For goodness sakes. She walked in them well enough, but they were so uncomfortable she didn’t understand why anyone would willingly stuff their poor helpless feet into them. Besides women like her with pushy big sisters. Sara felt like a contestant on one of those dumb reality dating shows. She normally wore flats. With worn jeans and T-shirts with ironic sayings or tights with ballet slippers and 50’s A-line skirts with retro blouses, sometimes short floral dresses and flip flops in summer with chunky shoes and frayed denim jackets. She didn’t wear stilettos.
“It’s just to get him interested,” Amy insisted as she added some blush to her already rouged cheek. “You can go back to being you in a few months…it’s just how it works.”
She was meeting one of her brother-in-law’s childhood friends, a man unfortunately nicknamed Chet (could she marry a man who freely called himself that?) who was newly divorced. Sara thought it was too soon for him to be dating again.
“Come on, Sara, just meet him,” Amy had insisted. “Plus, I know you’re sick of being single.”
Am I? Sara had thought. It was just like Amy. If she wanted something, everyone else must have. Her life was of course the default master plan that everyone craved. Amy would never understand that she liked solitary nights next to the open window in her small apartment, sipping good wine and reading a book, letting her feet rest against the window sill, feeling the delicious chill of the wind between her toes. She liked eating in bed without anyone complaining about crumbs, watching whatever movie or show she wanted on television, not having to talk at all for hours if she didn’t feel like it, she liked waking up on a Saturday morning and doing whatever she wanted to do whenever she wanted to do it, she liked being able to call a girlfriend and plan a spontaneous adventure, no husbands with whom to smooth things over or babysitters to arrange. She liked her life. But this was Amy. And for some reason, since the day Amy convinced her to go down the big slide on the playground at Chastain Park when she was two, even though her legs and arms were shaking and she’d nearly wet her pants, she hadn’t been able to say no to her.
Under her tightly wound coat she wore a dark red dress with a V-neck criss-cross neckline and an A-line skirt that swished as she walked. It wasn’t really her, but she’d felt adventurous when she bought it a year ago. It’d hung in her closet forever, waiting for the day it would make its debut. She feared she’d wasted it. She wanted to wear it on a date with a guy she’d already met and was maybe a little in love with. Not full on, let’s run off and get married love, just fluttering in the belly, tingling in your toes, can’t stop smiling all day, goofy kind of love. She would have worn it to a place where a live band played old standards like The Way You Look Tonight or Fly Away With Me, he’d twirl her on the floor as she pressed her cheek into the curve of his neck. So the coat was staying on, for now anyway.
She sat down at the bar, where her sister and her husband were already sitting, nursing glasses of red wine. Sara had insisted on driving her own car. Amy’s husband Steve was exactly what Amy said she’d always wanted, like she’d ordered him from a catalog. Tall and generically Ken-doll handsome, romantic but in a conservative, non-overt way, polite, gentlemanly, always stood when Amy arrived and when she left, opened car doors and always paid the tab, no matter how many of Amy’s friends have been invited along. They went from just friends, to boyfriend and girlfriend, to engaged and then married in six months flat. All according to plan.
Sara confused Steve. She could tell. She only politely laughed at his jokes, stayed only as long as needed at his and Amy’s soirees so as not to be considered rude, and turned down every invitation to travel with them until they stopped offering all together. Sara liked alone Amy, not Amy-and-Steve Amy. It was rare to catch alone Amy anymore.
“Hi guys,” Sara said in a fake-cheery tone.
“You look great!” Amy responded with a wink as Steve nodded. She flipped her dyed auburn hair over her shoulders and blinked her matching green eyes excitedly at Sara. People always asked if they were twins until Amy had lightened her hair. Sara didn’t know if that was an insult or not since Amy was three years older. “Take off your coat!” Amy demanded.
Sara stood, noticing expectant, appreciative glances from men around the room. The big reveal. Her face flushed. “I’m a little cold,” Sara lied, sitting back down. ”
You’re so beautiful, Sara,” Amy had told her earlier that day, hanging a gold locket around her neck. “You shouldn’t hide it.”
Sara had stayed silent. Beauty wasn’t something that you could hide. It was always obvious to those who were smart enough to see it. She wanted be with someone who saw her, actually saw her, or else, what was the point?
“So, a bit of a setback,” Amy started in that babyish, sing-songy voice she used when she was about to deliver bad news. “Chet is running super late. He got held up.”
Sara raised her newly manicured eyebrows. “Really?”
Steve nodded again. “He just texted. He’s really sorry. He’ll be here in about an hour he said.”
“Oh, is everything okay?”
Steve and Amy exchanged worried glances.
“Of course, he’s fine, just a class ran late.”
“What kind of class? Is he going back to college or something? That’s interesting.”
A long pause. “No, not that kind of class. It’s Heart Cycle.”
“Heart Cycle? What in the world is that?” Amy released an elongated sigh, emphasizing for Steve’s effect how hopeless Sara was.
“It’s a new cycle studio? It just opened in Buckhead?” Steve looked at Sara expectantly as if these details were supposed to jog her memory. “There’s a two-page long waiting list to get in and he finally got in last month, but his favorite instructor was late for class today. He felt really bad, but he couldn’t miss it.”
Sara looked at the gravely serious expressions on Amy’s and Steve’s faces, glancing back and forth to see if they were joking. Then threw her head back and laughed heartily, so loud that half the diners dropped their forks and looked up at her, probably thinking she was deranged.
“Saaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaa…” Amy whined. “You should be glad that he takes care of himself. A lot of guys don’t even care about that stuff.”
Her admonishment only made her laugh harder. She slid from the bar stool, still chuckling, and pulled on her coat. “You aren’t even going to wait? He’s a really nice guy.” Steve got that confused look on his face he always did when Sara didn’t behave according to his or Amy’s expectations.
Sara shook her head. “You tell him I hope he enjoyed his class.” Amy put her hand on Sara’s arm as she turned to leave. Her face was flushed red with annoyance. “What are we supposed to tell him when he gets here and you’re gone?”
Sara paused. Then bent down and took off Amy’s ridiculous shoes and placed them on the bar, probably breaking a few hundred health code laws. Her feet breathed a sigh of relief as she slipped them into the pair of flats she’d dropped in her purse just in case. “Tell him I was never really here anyway.” She smiled at their dumbfounded faces, then turned her back to them and headed out the door to do…whatever the heck she wanted. But first she would stop home and hang up her dress in its usual spot – in anticipation of a night that was worthy of its presence.