Short Character Sketch-Revamped!

The next assignment was to revamp the character sketch I did yesterday.

I hate re-editing, as do most people. But here I go:

She is sitting in front of the mirror,currently  filling in her eyebrows for a more dramatic look. She had told me “I only need 15 minutes to get ready” but that was  half-an-hour ago. I haven’t bothered to get out of bed yet. I only need a few minutes to get ready, throw on a new t-shirt and I am good to go.  She’s listening to Youtube videos on her phone, this time Judge Judy. She likes how Judge Judy doesn’t take crap from no one. Plus, as she points out, she’s learning  a lot about the legal system.   I roll my eyes, but that doesn’t stop me from listening to it too while I play Anipang on my phone.


I decided to try 1st person narration to give a bit more insight into a narrator. Similar elements of information as before, but a lot less descriptors and so called “purple” language as my friend Erica pointed out.

Reading Characters

From my Writing Fiction Class:

Take a look at these character sketches from George Orwell’s Burmese Days and Zoë Heller’s Notes on a Scandal. Note down how you think the writers are managing to portray character.

The first thing that one noticed in Flory was a hideous birthmark stretching in a ragged crescent down his left cheek, from the eye to the corner of the mouth. Seen from the left side his face had a battered, woe-begone look, as though the birthmark had been a bruise – for it was a dark blue in colour. He was quite aware of its hideousness. And at all times, when he was not alone, there was a sidelongness about his movements, as he manoeuvred constantly to keep the birthmark out of sight.

Orwell, G. ([1934] 1967), Burmese Days, Penguin: Harmondsworth, p. 14.

The first time I ever saw Sheba was on a Monday morning, early in the winter term of 1996. I was standing in the St George’s car park, getting books out of the back of my car when she came through the gates on a bicycle – an old-fashioned, butcher-boy model with a basket in the front. Her hair was arranged in one of those artfully dishevelled up-dos: a lot of stray tendrils framing her jaw, and something like a chopstick piercing a rough bun at the back. It was the sort of hairstyle that film actresses wear when they’re playing sexy lady doctors. I can’t recall exactly what she had on. Sheba’s outfits tend to be very complicated – lots of floaty layers. I know she was wearing purple shoes. And there was definitely a long skirt involved, because I remember thinking that it was in imminent danger of becoming entangled in her spokes. When she dismounted – with a lithe, rather irritating, little skip – I saw that the skirt was made of some diaphanous material. Fey was the word that swam into my mind. Fey person, I thought. Then I locked my car and walked away.
My formal introduction to Sheba took place later the same day when Ted Mawson, the deputy head, brought her into the staffroom at afternoon break for a ‘meet and greet’.
I was off in a far corner when Mawson ushered Sheba in, so I was able to watch their slow progress around the room for several minutes, before having to mould my face into the appropriate smile.
Sheba’s hair had become more chaotic since the morning. The loose tendrils had graduated to hanks and where it was meant to be smooth and pulled back, tiny, fuzzy sprigs had reared up, creating a sort of corona around her scalp. She was a very thin woman, I saw now. As she bent to shake the hands of seated staff members, her body seemed to fold in half at the waist like a piece of paper.
‘Our new pottery teacher!’ Mr Mawson was bellowing with his customary, chilling good spirits, as he and Sheba loomed over Antonia Robinson, one of our Eng Lit women. Sheba smiled and patted her hair.
Pottery. I repeated the word quietly to myself. It was too perfect: I pictured her, the dreamy maiden poised at her wheel, massaging tastefully mottled milk jugs into being.

Heller, Z. (2003) Notes on a Scandal, Penguin: London, pp. 11–13.


Orwell has a really simple, but vivid description of the character Flory.  His description is  written very straight forward and matter of fact.

Heller, on the other hand, describes Sheba through the voice of the narrator. Through this depiction of her, not only can you find out more about Sheba, but a lot about the narrator herself.

It’s interesting to see even through the act of describing another character, you can find out a lot about the narrator’s personality. I haven’t given much thought to before, but I definitely can see how it could be used as a narrative trick to convey a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Short Character Sketch

Every morning before work she carefully constructs her appearance: filling in her eyebrows for a more dramatic look, adding eye shadow and extending her lashes with 3 coats of mascara, applying concealer and foundation, finally finishing up with lipstick which is a different shade depending on her outfit for the day which in itself takes a long time to assemble.

Today she shows off her long legs with a long, tan tunic top and white short-shorts which are covered by the tunic enough to give the impression she isn’t wearing pants. Over the tunic she wears a thin, green jacket to protect against the spring breeze.  She is blinged out: 3 rings on her hands, a flower chain necklace, earrings (2 triangle shaped dangly ones, and 3 studs in her other piercings including her right tragus). When she is bored she twirls her tragus earring. She can’t wear headphones in that ear, but that’s the price she pays for style.

She carries a fanny pack (tribal style pattern) slung across her chest. Her friend makes fun of her: “Fanny pack! That’s so ‘90s!”, but she shrugs, saying it’s only uncool when you wear it like they did back then.

She spends her time on the bus to work on her phone, which is so large it can barely fit in her hand. She complains about it how it’s on the way out despite being less than 2 years old, but that might be due to the fact she watches Youtube videos on it while showering.



This was only supposed to be 200 words, but I started getting carried away.  ha


Excellent: The motivation behind writing

Writing Fiction course assignment: 

Listen to audio of different writers discussing their motivation for writing and why they write, then answer the questions

  • What were the similarities in their respective journeys towards writing?
  • How much did fact mix with fiction in the way their own life experience and personal circumstance influenced them as writers?
  • What elements of your life experience and personal circumstance do you think might influence your writing?

Most of the writers said they had grown up always doing writing of some kind, whether it was comics, journals, or short stories. A few of them said they wanted to write about things that made them angry.

Personal circumstances definitely had a big influence on them as writers. Actually, I don’t know any of the writers who were speaking ( Alex Garland, Michèle Roberts, Tim Pears, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Monique Roffey and Louis de Bernières.), but you could hear how  different their writing topics would be just based on  what they were saying.  For example, one woman talked about how going to Catholic Church every Sunday for years had a BIG impact on her and what she writes about.

I think in my writing I useda lot of personal life experiences or experiences that I have heard from others. Whenever someone tells me a crazy or a funny story, I file it away for future reference. Another thing  I really love doing is reading science and cultural articles. The more I read them, the more I think that I could use this weird fact or tidbit in a future story.

For example, I recently had a dream where doctors had to cut out my twin which had been a part of me since birth, but was starting to interfere with my body like this man. It was a horrifying dream. And yet, it had all the makings of a good movie or story!




This much twitching I would notice for sure

Checking you out!

My Writing Fiction Course recommends that if you aren’t already doing so, have a writing journal where you compile notes and observations about people and your surroundings.

I have been doing this in a diary form for a long time.


My friends could also tell you that I’m always taking a screen-shot of funny things they text or  writing hilarious things they said down.

I’m much more of a dialogue person that anything else. When I read or watch a movie, I focus mostly on dialogue and story. If it’s not good, I don’t enjoy it.

What this means for my writing though, is that it’s harder for me to give the reader enough detail to imagine the situation. Everyone always tells me MORE DETAIL!

Something I need to focus on is writing more about smells, appearance, and touch. It’s not just the words, but also how people convey these words that is important.

Recently my friend was talking to me about the fact her faces twitches when she is nervous. She says she sees it on her students’ faces too when they have to talk to her in English.

Really?? I’ve never noticed that, I told her.

This much twitching I would notice for sure

This much twitching I would notice for sure

I normally hear it more it their voices, maybe see the panic in the eyes or feel it after I high five their sweaty palm for talking to me.

But facial twitching… interesting!

One of the reasons I really enjoy BBC Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch is that his power of observation are amazing. I wish my observational skills were that good! But I suppose, it will only improve with practice.

So now I’m off! Going to sit in a public place and people watch.


say what

Reflections on Truths and Lies in Fiction Writing

The first class of Writing Fiction is writing about lies and truths (see previous post)

We were then supposed to read other people’s paragraphs and answer these questions:

  • Is there anything that distinguishes the fictitious elements?
  • Are there common elements that you and your fellow writers write about as ‘facts’?
  • Do any of these passages suggest stories to you?

You know, sometimes it was really hard to tell what was fictitious and what was not when I was reading other people’s paragraphs. Everyone wrote about really different things, but I thought that some people’s paragraphs felt like it could ALL  be true.

I think the line between fiction and nonfiction can be really grey depending on the topic/details.

I think what made things stand out as being fictitious is when it seemed really over the top, something that was just TOO incredible or coincidental to believe. But perhaps I’m wrong and it was the truth, and something else mundane was the lie.

I’ve had some CRAZY things happen to me in Korea that when I try to explaining to people at home, they just can’t understand or believe.

say what

Actually, the paragraphs I wrote for this assignment were about my life in Korea, but I twisted it a lot for the lying paragraphs. But had I not told you most of it was a lie, would you believe it’s true? Most people don’t know a lot about Korea, so I could tell you “this is true!” and you might believe me.

The same goes for talking to people in Korea about America. For example, as a joke I tell my students I’m friends with Obama. They always says “Teacher!! REALLY? No!! LIAR!” but then I shake my head (no smiling or laughing) and say, “Yes! Really!”

Barney, minus the drinking at school, ha

Barney, minus the drinking at school, ha

Because I look so serious, and I am from D.C., some of them actually believe me! Or, at least, they have enough doubt in their mind to ask my co-teacher if I am lying or not.

obama dancing gif

This is so epic. Whoever made this, I love you!

It seems easier to lie about things you know something about, versus something you know nothing about, at least for me.

I think this is important for fiction writing. If you want to lend more weight to your writing you should add details of “truthfulness” even if your story is entirely fictitious.

I don’t think there are many common elements that the other writers and I are using as facts because all of our paragraphs are SO different. There are so many  different topics, different points of view, and different styles. Even if you gave two writers the same 3 lies, 1 truth to work with, the paragraphs they would write would differ and I might not think they actually have the same truth.

Actually, this seems like an interesting experiment. Give a group of writers the same 3 lies, 1 truth and see what they come up with. Then ask other people unrelated to the task to figure out the truth and the lies.


A lot of these paragraphs seem like they could be short stories or  that they could even developed into longer stories. Even just writing my two paragraphs I felt like I could maybe turn it into a larger story of some kind if I gave it more thought…. We shall see!

Apparently I like writing, but I don’t do enough of it

I just started participating in an online course from Future learn. It’s a Fiction Writing course and will last 8 weeks. For more info, go here.

I haven’t done any online courses (#ds106 4 life), or writing courses since my last year of Uni in 2011. 4 years ago! CRAZY!  Time to kick myself into gear and be creative.

The first assignment is to write 1 paragraph with 3 lies, 1 truth and write 1 paragraph 3 truths, 1 lie. The purpose is to realize the relationship between fact and fiction.

Here’s what I wrote:

I hate where I live. This city is comprised strictly of grimy factories and giant apartment complexes that house the workers who slave away in the factories. The city has made a halfhearted attempt to plant trees around to help beautify the city, but the trees are scraggly and wasting away under the noxious air. If I didn’t wear a face mask, I would be choked by the pollutants and yellow dust that drifts over from China. My city likes to blame China for all of its air quality problems, not their stinking factories, but everyone knows better.

How did I end up here? Money. I needed the money. Even though working here pays only a pittance, it’s better than what I could make at home. At home, in a land far, far away, the economy is in the toilet. No jobs, no prospects, no future. I thought this place would be an adventure, and I guess I was right. I could have never dreamed that moving here would alter my life so dramatically. But has it changed me for the better? I’m not sure.


Can you tell what are the lies and what are the truths?


When a Korean criticizes the artwork you did just for fun

I showed my painting I did the other week to some Korean adult students I teach and that’s the first thing one of them said: “Terrible. It looks so childish. I did that when I was 10 years old.”


My friend Kate also showed a picture of our painting we did that night to one of her Korean co-teacher and the Korean said, “I looked at the paintings and they looked like elementary school work….”

As Kate put it: “Many Koreans don’t see the point of doing something unless it’s 100% or a masterpiece. The point of the evening was to drink and see what happens, not drink and vomit a Michelangelo.”

Exactly! If only I had a gif of someone vomiting a Michelangelo… anyone want to get on making that?

I find many Koreans are blunt. Too blunt. They often make comments about your appearance (weight, clothes, blemishes) and about other things which might be acceptable in their culture, but to a westerner it’s just rude.

One story I always remember is a friend of mine, Sara, told me how at lunch her female Korean coworker who had terrible English tried to tell Sara was a lot fatter than Korean women. Then, to make the point abundantly clear, when they later happened to be in the bathroom at the same time, this woman actually leaned over and grabbed Sara’s stomach and said “See! Fat!”

Sara isn’t even fat! She’s not bone thin like many Koreans, but she’s a normal size!

Korea, you’re killing me.

Blonde Moments: Buffalo

We all have so called “dumb blonde” moments where you say something really ridiculous and/or dumb and people laugh (either in their head or out loud if they’re jerks.)

And some of us have more of these moments then others.

An example from the past:

Talking with a teacher about where she is from.

T: I grew up in India but I studied in Buffalo.

Me: Oh, cool. My mom went to the University of Colorado.

T: (blank look on face–)

Me: Wait… You mean Buffalo, NY! I was thinking Colorado Buffalos for some reason, they’re the school mascot for the University of Colorado….

T: (Still blank look on her face)

Me:..ok I’ll just crawl in a hole now….