character story: layers.

Person: A 15-year-old boy walking down the street on the sidewalk, his head turned down toward the ground. His black hair falls in front of his face. He's wearing a plaid shirt over a white t-shirt, jeans and Converse sneakers. 

He just wants to be understood. No, not even that. That would take years for someone. He immediately feels exhausted at the thought and shoves it away. So, not that. Then, what? It must be him. It's got to be something about him. Something's off. Something's wrong. With him. 

He's been down this thought-path so many times before. From the outside, he's completely normal. He looks the same as the other kids. He thinks about how they're all in the same classes at school. He even does some of the same things. But he feels so different. It seems he thinks about things most of his friends don't. He doesn't care about the same things they do. 

Sometimes he thinks he should talk to someone. It's not that he really minds being so different. It's just that he likes people. He doesn't mean to be any particular way. If anything, he wishes he wasn't too afraid to be himself. There are too many layers, he thinks. He can barely sort through them himself. His heart sinks into his belly. How will anyone else?

He pulls his arm up and pushes his hand from the crown of his head forward, brushing over his bangs. He's still walking, though he doesn't know where he's going. He really can't think about any of this anymore. Instead, he watches where the wind sweeps through the grass, he hears two birds whistling at each other and he leans back into the grass of a nearby field to watch the clouds float by. 

When he looks at all the nature around him, he feels almost peaceful. At each turn, his eyes focus in on one thing, and it's almost like he's watching a movie. He sees the detail, the color, the way a branch flips, sending its leaves into a frenzy. He thinks this is probably why he's weird. He feels a connection to life, nature and a larger perspective. 

There's just so much more out there for him to do, see and explore. So much to make of life. He's always considered his differences to be barriers. Right now, though, it feels like they're giving him an escape—like a secret passageway to meaning, freedom, peace. 

But, there are so many layers. Maybe too many. He wonders if he'll ever get through them all.

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character story: looking back.

Person: An elderly woman sitting on a park bench and gazing at the small forest of trees in front of her.

She sat here on this bench often, watching the golden leaves of autumn flit toward the ground with each gust of wind. Each leaf represented a memory. She could see each one as it fell, and she felt a twinge of nostalgia in response.

It wasn’t one memory that stood out to her the most. She’d listened to her friends speak of one time in particular over and over again, some in regret and others with quiet appreciation. She, instead, saw all of the leaves of her golden life as the pieces that formed her life as a whole. Her life had been full, happy, peaceful, hard, joyful, challenging, rich, sad, painful and colorful. She saw her mistakes and looked on them softly and with a smile. The consequences had been due, but the positive that came from them was overwhelming.

She’d always learned by doing. A tiny chuckle escaped her lips like a musical sigh. She thought of a few simple mistakes, then a big one or two. The lessons she’d learned were invaluable, and she’d carried them with her throughout her life, even taught them to her children and her grandchildren.

Each time she sits on this bench in her favorite part of town, she appreciates the different view of life she has. Fumbling through life wasn’t an excuse for her. She’d preferred it and enjoyed every single minute. She’d loved not knowing what would come next and had never allowed herself to feel stuck in one place or phase. She hadn’t had a hard time with change like many people she’d known. It had always seemed to come at just the right time.

One leaf fell, then two leaves. The tree was growing bare. It was late in the season, and she felt it was a metaphor. She’d make a few more memories, and then, like the leaves, she’d flutter away. It didn’t make her nervous, afraid or even sad anymore. She felt she’d been blessed twice as much as she should have been.

Ahead, all she felt was peace.

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character story: waiting for nothing.

Person: Middle-aged man sitting at a train station. A folded newspaper is in his lap, and he stares straight ahead without emotion. 

The train would roll up any moment now. It's already 5 minutes late. Although it doesn't matter when it gets here––it's not like he can run late without an agenda––he's impatient, jittery or maybe he's anxious? He can't tell. 

He's a respectable man, and he looks it. He's even wearing a jacket today and a cap to press down the top of his stubborn, bristly and somewhat-graying hair. He could be a lawyer, a banker; he could be a Wall Street man. Why is he getting looks from the others sitting at the station? He doesn't let himself look around anymore. He's focusing on the cracks in the pavement in front of him. They're in the shape of, well, nothing. Ironic, he thinks. 

Let them look. Let them stare. It's the most attention he'll get for the unforeseeable future. He's sure of it.

His stare turns completely blank, and his thoughts take a turn. He's never quite felt the way he feels right now––wrongly pegged. And without discussion. Without any interaction, either. Has he just been so utterly absorbed that he's never noticed before? He's never taken the train. It's not like he's a regular passenger. Honestly, he thinks of trains as obsolete... he trails off. 

People do this, he muses. Don't they? They'll see someone and form a judgment just like that, won't they? His eyes focus and unfocus on the converging pavement lines. He'd done that to people many times before. Unintentionally, of course. He feels the whole world is confused. If everyone's making each other feel accused or shunned, he's not really up for that. 

He's done thinking about it. It's of no consequence. He has too much nothing on his mind to keep him occupied. Nothing. Not even the newspaper with all it's doom-and-gloom headlines could distract him from the sudden blankness. He's had a full life, so much going for him. Where does he go from here? Ah, no point thinking about it. He just wants the train to arrive. 

And it does. Just a moment later, he hears rolling over the tracks and two whistles in the distance. He's happy and relieved––two unexpected emotions––though he begins to realize why something as trivial as a train arriving means so much to him. All those years of waiting, he whispers. For her. For her.  

He reaches for the crumpled newspaper, pats his hat down and walks away. Now he can start over.

 Read more about my character stories here, and find more of them here.

character story: her wild would not be tamed.

Person: A woman, perhaps in her early twenties, leaving her apartment in the middle of the night. 

She wasn't like most girls, a fact she grew up hating but lately was learning to love. The possibilities were endless in her mind. She could do anything almost, if she could just figure out which thing to choose. Her passions reached far and wide. She could see the big picture of her life with no single interest taking over. 

She'd had enough. Pulling on the strap of the duffle bag weighing heavily over her shoulder, she walked, determined, out of her post-college and supposedly grown-up apartment and to the old Camry in the one parking spot to her name. She turned the key in the ignition, feeling her thoughts fire up along with the engine. There was anger in the mix this time. And that's why she had to leave. 

This wasn't the life for her. She was meant for more. She had always been meant for more. And she'd never known why she thought that. She felt ungrateful for her mediocre, normal life. She didn't need the stability of normality that most people wished for. A wave of guilt passed over her, but she had no time for that. She'd been over this. It wasn't bad for her to want more. She shouldn't feel guilty for always dreaming. She knew her capabilities and just how far she could be pushed. 

She knew the scope of her accomplishments could be greater than she'd even imagined. Her life could really mean something. She could have a purpose. A real one. But instead, she felt stuck. She had to get out and go where her soul was taking her. 

She'd tried so many times––getting into her so-called life at this point, trying to do all the socially accepted things, adapting to what people close to her expected. Sometimes she had even fooled herself into thinking she could do it, that she could be the person everyone thought she should be. That's where nights like this came from. She couldn't, she wouldn't, sell her very self. 

Tonight, she needed that sense of freedom she never felt anymore. The wind, waves, stars and moon were pulling her away. It felt cliché, but she needed the restlessness of the ocean to give her peace. The shroud of night would be her protection. Her thoughts, desires, imaginations and realizations would run wild. She could taste it. 

It wouldn't fix her. It never had. Why was it that she was broken over limitations? Over the system? It made her feel selfish, and now she could only keep driving for the relief ahead. She couldn't address the reasons––not just yet. 

She felt tonight would at least bring her back to a neutral place. That's what had happened before. But this couldn't go on forever. She wanted more than just a reset. Tonight things would be different. She would not return the same.

And she would not let herself be tamed. 

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character story: she had time for nothing, yet she did everything.

Person: Young, stylish woman rushing to get somewhere. She’s not rude and somehow keeps a calm facial expression despite her fast pace.

“She had time for nothing, yet she did everything.”

The phrase haunts her as if it’s the words on her gravestone.

When she gets home at night, she pushes all her plans for the evening away with a twinge of embarrassment for thinking she would have the energy. She was supposed to finish washing the dishes this time. She had planned to crack open the novel she just purchased. When would she ever finish the projects neglected in the spare room? Or get married? Or finally meet someone? Well, someone else this time.

She thinks about how other people often see her––living large and taking life head on. That’s not how she sees herself. No, that’s not even the truth. She looks in the mirror each morning and talks herself into motivation she doesn’t feel. She thinks of the ways certain people depend on her. She feels like she lives in constant motion, racing across the street to catch the subway and then to the inevitable next thing. She can’t clear her head most nights.

She thinks back to the days when her mom took her to the swingset at a neighborhood park. Her mom was always glowing, smiling. She dreams about it a little longer, then shoves it aside.

She often seeks adventure; she often seeks her couch. She lives for survival but thinks she won’t survive until she truly lives.

“Happiness is a myth, isn’t it?” she toys with the thought, instantly apathetic.

No change is in sight. There doesn’t seem to be a way out. She’ll just keep going until…

“She had time for nothing, yet she did everything.”

That phrase again. There it is. It has to stop. She swears she’ll make it stop.

Read more about my character stories here, and find more of them here.

character stories.

It could be a little kid running after the ice cream truck, a mom with impressive muscle definition on a jog or a student crossing the street to meet a study group at Starbucks. Maybe it’s a middle-aged man sitting slightly out of place at a bus station. It could be anyone.

It’s at this ultimate level of people-watching that I come up with scenarios, or mini stories, about anonymous people’s lives. Imagining dramatic storylines, model lifestyles, unseen issues, deep thought processes and swirling emotions that these people could be dealing with intrigues me.

Imagination is fuel for writing. I can’t believe I never thought of this before, but I’m putting these miniature stories down in the form of fictional characters. These character stories are purely speculative material for a bit of creative writing. None of them are true, and some of them are likely depressing (be warned). People matter more than almost any other topic to me. Their stories are always interesting and unique, along with their personalities, quirks and opinions.

When you read these stories, think of how the perspectives of everyone around you are filled with complexities. Nothing is ever how it seems, and you may be more misunderstood than you think you are. No one can read your mind or understand the extent of experiences, struggles and people you’ve encountered, fought through and known––especially from a first glance.

That’s the beauty of the one-of-a-kind human being that, ironically, we all are.

I hope you enjoy the stories, and I’d love to know which one is your favorite. Always go after that thing that drives you, health nuts. ;)