The Craft of Character: Observation and Implication

NaNoWriMo Course 3, Week 2

Assignment Description:

Go to a public place or local spot. Observe other people’s behavior, especially odd or intriguing acts. Create a character and put them in this place. Give them two traits: a behavior you observed and a negative trait about yourself. Now, write 300-600 words describing the character in the context of the place without writing anything directly about the character. In fact, write as if the character is not even present at the place during the time you’re writing it. Try to allow the reader to discover both of the character’s traits indirectly. This assignment is about implication, about leading the reader to see the character without directly describing him/her. For example, you might describe a handbag left behind, the contents of which show your character’s preferences and avoidances, longings and dislikes.

The Lunch Rush

416 words

It’s past the lunch rush hour. The small place is now nearly empty, with only a couple of lovebird students occupying the corner table. It gets packed with people from 12 to 1 PM; people crave the fried chicken that place makes like ants crave sugar. At the table next to the students, a smartphone is left near the dirty plates. It is an old model, battered with wear and tear. The screen protector plastic is scratched and peeled at the sides, while the screen itself has cracks across. A message comes in, turning on the screen and revealing a rather suggestive picture of a pin-up girl in a bright pink bikini.

Next to the smartphone lies a pack of cigarettes, with a picture of the gruesome ‘Smoking Kills’ awareness campaign image the Ministry of Health requires to be printed on every cigarette packs made in this country. The ad for that brand of cigarettes shows a man having a good time with his friends—”If you aren’t here, it’s not as much fun!” I think it says. Cigarette butts still smoke from a nearby ashtray, the scent of tobacco mixing with the aroma of fried chicken. Black ash is scattered near the dirty plates, some on the long bench, and some again on the floor. It’s going to be irritating to clean up.

The woman in the corner table, the one with short hair and a black jacket, coughs. She is covering her face with her jacket sleeves. Her shoulders move up and down as she inhales and exhales through the fabric. Her boyfriend, a comely young man with spiky short hair, has a pale blue handkerchief covering his nose and mouth in his left hand. His right hand waves away the smoke from the cigarette butts. They look miserable. The woman was complaining to her boyfriend. I try not to listen, but she’s quite loud.

“Hey, calm down. Don’t rage so loud in a public place,” her boyfriend says after she finishes complaining. She huffs in frustration.

“Fine. Just… let’s go.”

The couple walk towards me, the man rummaging his wallet for cash.

“Two Packet As, and a glass of sweet iced tea,” he says, handing me a blue cash bill. I take four thousand from the cash drawer and hand it to him.

“Here you go. Thank you, please come again,” I say.


Time to clean up the tables. Maybe I should put up a ‘No Smoking’ sign on the wall, too.


If only.

I initially included the woman complaining about how the smoker didn’t react to her coughing loudly, but it was too blatant so I shortened her complaints into one sentence.

Also, I don’t get people who smoke while eating. I mean, why? Won’t they get cig ashes in their food???

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