Character-Building Challenge Day 8: Wants and Hurdles

Wants and Blocks by Maria L. Berg 2023

For the eighth day of the first Writer’s Digest Character-Building Challenge the prompt is “pick a character and reveal their greatest want and the main hurdle standing in their way.”

What does Davenna want and what’s standing in her way? Davenna wants the romance she reads about in her books. She wants excitement, adventure, something new and dangerous. Her real problem is that she doesn’t feel happy. She’s not content. She thinks there’s more out there and she wants it. She feels dead inside, like no matter what she does, she isn’t good enough. What’s standing in her way? Her marriage to Roger. Her standing in her community. Her fear of what people think of her. Her need to be seen as the perfect wife and mother. She feels caged within social norms.

Character-Building Challenge Day 7: Meeting Place

Character Through Time by Maria L. Berg 2023

For the seventh day of the first Writer’s Digest Character-Building Challenge the prompt is “pick a place and have two or more of your characters meet and interact with each other.”

Merle smelled spiced wild flowers and felt a vibration on the make-shift bar. He smiled then looked up at her wondering if she would know him.

She was alone, and she wasn’t smiling. “You can’t be here,” she whispered.

“Excuse me?” Merle said. “Did you want something to drink?”

She looked flustered, confused. “A vodka tonic, but this isn’t right. What are you doing here? It’s not supposed to be like this.”

Merle scooped ice, measured the vodka. “What isn’t? Like what?” He put the drink in front of her.

She gulped down the drink and put the glass on the bar. “You can’t be here.”

He pointed at the empty glass. She nodded. He measured vodka for another drink. “I don’t understand why you keep saying that, but I’m here as a favor for my sister. She’s doing the catering and needed an extra bartender for tonight. She did a lot of begging and pleading and here I am.”

This time he handed her the glass. Their fingers touched and neither one flinched. Nor did they pull their fingers apart too quickly.

“What were you reading?” she asked sipping her drink more slowly.

He lifted up his book showing her the cover.

“Storm in a Teacup? If I didn’t know better, I would say you’re reading a sordid romance.”

He looked at the cover, then at her. “It’s about physics.”

Her face fell. She took another sip. “Physics? You mean like the laws of attraction?”

“Among other things.”

“I had imagined us meeting at the bookstore cafe. I was building up my courage to come sit with you. I never expected to see you here.”

“Oh, I get it now. I can’t be here because I’m the guy in the bookstore. Sometimes you connect a person with a place so much that when you see them somewhere else, you don’t even recognize them.”

“I don’t think I ever imagined seeing  you in a tux, either.”

“Yeah, right. I think my sister rented it.”

“I’m Davenna Byron.” She put down her drink and held out her hand.

“Oh, yeah.” Merle wiped his fingers on the white bar towel. “Sorry about the damp fingers,” he said gently taking her fingers. “I’m Merle. Merle Tremble.” He brought her fingers to his lips and kissed them gently. “Enchante.”

Their hands lingered. He stared into her glistening emerald eyes, wondering what she wanted, and if her dress zipped down the back, or down the side.

Character-Building Challenge Day 6: Love or Hate

The Love Interest by Maria L. Berg 2023

For the sixth day of the first Writer’s Digest Character-Building Challenge the prompt is to create someone who loves or despises one of your characters.

Roger Byron knew that Davenna was a romantic. At first he liked it, how she made everything about love and sex and fantasy. It was hot when they were young, but now it’s pathetic. She’s never satisfied. Everything needs to be more romantic. Going to work to pay her bills is not romantic. And it has gotten so much worse since Montana went to college. He had heard people have empty nest syndrome, but Davenna’s feathering her nest with name-brand purses and shoes. That Sonia lady only makes everything worse. Maybe he and Davenna could have worked things out if she wasn’t so obsessed with Sonia Havanna Cashion. It’s not just that she likes spending time with her—Calls her her shopping buddy—but she wants to be her.

It makes Roger feel like he can’t live up to her dreams and fantasies even more than before. At least when Montana was growing up, Davenna could fantasize about Montana’s future, and her prince charming. But now that Davenna’s got no one to shove her romances onto, she’s swirling out of control. She gets these strange secretive smiles, her eyes sparkling in the sunlight, and he just know that she’s planning some fairytale escape from their life and he hates her for it. He despises that look of far off happiness. The way she always makes him feel inadequate. He had to build myself back up somehow. Prove he was still desirable. The business trips he takes? They’re not business trips. His job doesn’t send him anywhere. He mostly telecommutes for work. He can work from anywhere. No. Those business trips are affairs. Different mistresses all over the world. Talk about romantic. He flies in; wines them dines them. They have some fun, and he’s off again. Davenna will never know what it’s like. Her damp paperbacks with shirtless man covers will never satisfy like he do. And she’ll never know.

Character-Building Challenge Day 5: Making Friends

The Pretty Friend by Maria L. Berg 2023

For the fifth day of the first Writer’s Digest Character-Building Challenge the prompt is to create a friend, ally, or sidekick for one of the characters.

Sonia Havana Cashion is Davenna Dale Byron’s best friend, or at least Davenna likes to think so. Sonia lives in the big house at the top of the hill. She has a daughter the same age as Davenna’s and though the girls did not get along, Davenna and Sonia bonded at school parent functions, gossiping about the other parents. Davenna knew all the dirt and Sonia loved to hear it. Now that their girls are grown, Sonia is Davenna’s shopping buddy. Sonia’s a bit of a shop-aholic but she can afford it, which gets Davenna into trouble because she wants to be able to afford it, but Roger keeps her on a budget. She ends up secretly returning most of what she buys which is becoming embarrassing, but shopping with Sonia is important to her and her standing in the community, and she throws the best parties.

My Novel

I’ve been thinking of making Satya more of a friend and ally for my main character, Verity. In the draft she only becomes an ally at the end. But now I think I want their friendship to grow from the beginning. So how would that look?

I need to introduce Satya differently. In the draft she is only along as the new partner for the police interview. However, I could have her take Verity aside as they’re leaving and say she needs to speak to her privately.

Character-Building Challenge Day 4: What do they think of each other?

Character Development by Maria L. Berg 2023

For the fourth day of the first Writer’s Digest Character-Building Challenge the prompt is “sit both the characters you interrogated down and have them share what and how they think about each other.”

What Davenna thinks of Merle:

He is intriguing. I see him at the cafe in the bookstore. I like to sit and have a coffee and read the first chapter or two of my new romance before I leave the store. We seem to have that in common, though he’s always reading non-fiction, or some old classic. I think he’s much younger than me, but that’s okay for a fling, right? Nothing serious. I like his long slim fingers the way he caresses the pages as he reads. He always looks very serious, never smiles. But I could change that. I think he’s a possible. Maybe I’ll ask him what he’s reading next time.

What Merle thinks of Davenna:

The fit older woman I see at the bookstore? I don’t really think of her. I mean I’ve seen her, and she takes care of herself, that’s for sure. Always smartly dressed, I mean her clothes fit her just right. And she always looks like a professional did her hair and make-up. I could imagine getting to know her would be an experience worth having. And of course she’s a reader. She always has her nose in a book. But she reads romance, so that slams that door. And the diamonds and gold on her finger make it clear to the world that she believes in such backward rites as marriage and human ownership which only a vapid romantic would. So though I don’t mind looking at her back while she orders her coffee, that’s about all I think of her.

And for my Novel

What Cassius thinks of Felix:

That kid is weird. But I think there’s something more to him than just some peeper staring in peoples windows at night. He would just stand there, not smiling or leering. He looked calm, thoughtful. He just stood there in the dark. The only way you really knew he was there was he played those eerie notes on that cigar-box guitar of his. Such a weird kid. But I got a good look at him once when I was on the porch having a smoke, and he’s older than he looks. You can see it in his eyes, and he slouches, tucks into himself and wears kids clothes, but I think it’s a disguise. He’d be one of those great kid actors that can play the precocious kid into his thirties.

What Felix thinks of Cassius:

I don’t trust that guy. He has this glow about him like he loves the whole world and everyone in it, but when people aren’t looking he sneers and this shadow  comes over his shiny eyes. He’s always touching people, but not like consoling or reassuring, it’s more like he’s petting them, taking pleasure from them. He always seems to be up to something, but I don’t think people see it because they’re too close to him, blinded in his glow. I see it though because I watch from a distance. He doesn’t fool me.  Once, he looked right at me. He was out under the porch light smoking a cigarette and he looked at me, I didn’t think they could see my in the shed’s shadow, but I swear he looked in my eyes, took a big suck on his cigarette so it glowed bright  orange in the dark, then he flicked it right at me. It almost hit my nose, but landed in the grass. I had to stomp it out. When I looked up, his thick lips had thinned into a wide toothy grin, then he turned and went inside. I do not trust that guy.