Lesson 9: The Main Character
To a certain extent, all main characters have scenes where they are alone. Their personality, thoughts, and behaviour must be interesting enough to carry these scenes and make the reader care about the character.
Vague prompt: In 500 words, write a scene containing only one character. Focus on retaining reader interest and building an emotional bond between reader and character.
Specific prompt: Jaenelle is a ballet dancer who has returned to the practice room after hours for extra practice. In 500 words, depict her practice. Do not introduce other characters. Focus on retaining reader interest and building an emotional bond between reader and character.
"Haa...." sighing, the lone figure at the hallways stood before the double doors of the practice room, pausing.
Cold it was with the heater turned off, the belle didn't mind the lack of warmth in the air. It was comforting even though most people would have denied her claims. The majority like the warmth and fortunately, Jaenelle wasn't part of the majority. The cold was biting but it reassured her something.
That, she might have to call the technician to fix the damn heater, again. She was sure that five minutes ago, the place was quite toasty warm and....
The burning passion at chest was still burning brightly, her right hand at her bosom and clenched as if to grab hold of her beating heart.
'One more setback for the pile...' she thought to herself, smiling slightly with a chuckle.
Being a professional, performing at one of those big theater halls and basking on the eyes of many people. It was a dream she held dearly. A deep breath, she let her arms fell at her side. With an exhale, she placed her hands on the glossy but worn wood of the doors. Jaenelle paused, taking a step back.
'Look, you're pretty but you're no swan with grace dearie. Wanna pass the audition? I'll suggest you take a hike and try again next year. Or maybe never? You don't have want we want here.'
Remembering those words of that irritating woman, the sneer and contempt at those green eyes she was seeing her mind, made her feel awful. It was painful, stabbing and she can still feel the ache. She didn't need a mirror to tell her frown, how desolated she must look right there and then.
Jaenelle took a step forward, pushed the doors open and gritted her teeth.
"I'll show that woman!"
She yelled loud, her voice resounding at the dark practice room.
"A swan lacking grace, huh?!"
The soft and comfortable feeling of her cotton jacket gone as she shrugged it off and threw it at the side.
"I've been doing this for years! Like hell I back down now!"
Standing at the center of the room, the cold bit stronger. Wearing only the thin layers of her practice clothing, Jaenelle ran her fingers through her dark blonde tousled locks, tying it up to a ponytail. The belle stretched but only for a few minutes only. The room was dark, the lights off as she didn't bother at turning them on. From the windows that stretched from one end of the room to the other, from the floor reaching up to the ceiling, the city lights dimly illuminated the room.
It only had been thirty minutes or so when she was here, in the practice room, with the others.
Closing her eyes, Jaenelle raised her hands as she heard the music thirty minutes ago, resounding in her head. Softly, she lowered her arms, her legs pointed as she took a step, one at the time, going with the tune and the movements she had painstakingly memorized. Balancing her body with one leg, she spun delicately as she crossed to the side followed by brisk and fast movements.
The soft melody continued to play in her head but remembering the face of "that" instructor, her solemn face contorted. The dancer she had been performing so far faded out of her mind. The belle didn't dance for the story of the song in her head anymore but for the emotions, she harbored in her heart.
Jaenelle moved with abandon but with burning fury. Every movement sharp and fast yet had a certain grace in them. Letting her emotions be her puppeteer, the ballerina somewhere along the way was grinning brightly. She heard someone giggling but she knew very well that there was only her and any ghosts haunting the old building had been exorcised already. It didn't take long for her to realized it was herself was the one giggling!
'Yea... of course, it had been so long....' her limbs slowed down as she moved calmly. 'It had been audition this, audition that..... no room for freely dancing to my heart's content.'
Dancing wasn't something she does because it was a means. But it was something she enjoys, a passion that kept pushing to move forward. In the midst of the busy and stressful three months, Jaenelle felt at home again. A wry smile gracing her expression as she twirls and leaped back to the center of the room.
Expectations, failures, eyes of envy and words filled with compliments, somewhere along the lines, Jaenelle was slowly forgetting why she even dared to continue the rigorous path of being a ballerina. Tonight, she remembered it again. It was just a simple reason really.
It was just to dance because she loved it.
Being a professional and making it big was a realistic goal she placed just so she had something she can confidently tell people. At least, something she won't be shy to tell those who ask.
And as she danced in the dark yet dimly lit room, something heavy that had been on her shoulders and legs was removed. She felt freer than a bird that had been let out of its cage after years of confinement.
If somebody was present, they would had commented Jaenelle was like a fairy that just waltzed out of a storybook.
I think that your overall ambiance and narration were quite good and accomplished the prompt tasks. Some of your lines describing the dancing were quite beautiful.
Some points of criticism:
- I think the line "That, she might have to call the technician to fix the damn heater, again. She was sure that five minutes ago, the place was quite toasty warm and...." is unnecessary. In a piece this short, you only really have room to create one mood, and this line pulls you out of the mood. It's not that funny, either.
- Similarly, your last line, "If somebody was present, they would had commented Jaenelle was like a fairy that just waltzed out of a storybook." doesn't add to the scene. In general, avoid using the narrator to express opinions on how something in the scene should be interpreted, especially if you're trying to create a tight focus on the character.
- Watch your grammar.
Danke for your pointers. This gives me a bit more insight on how I should proceed with such scenes in the future. Grammer is a bane of mine, still need to polish it up ( and to be honest, I was using a grammar-checker whilst writing that short). I'll also go post something to the previous Night Lessons as well if I have free time later on.
Also, may I ask what's a better way to end that scene? That's pretty much what I was struggling with during the time I was writing the scene.
P.S its a bit more than 500 words.... sorry.
Soft tapping sounds fill a quiet dance hall. It would be dark if not for the luminous rays of the moon spilling in through the large windows on the third floor of the Dianna Moore dance school.
A few hours earlier the large room had been a bustle of woman in tutus, but now the fairy dressed in spotless white has the room all to herself… just the way she likes it. The tap sounds break the silence again, a sound all too familiar to her ears. It is the sound of her pointe shoes as she goes about struggling to make them fit just perfect.
A few minutes later a satisfied smile blooms on her face as she picks up the remote of the portable radio sitting snugly in the corner. Jaenelle takes a few deep breaths to still her beating heart. This place, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, away from the stress and frustration of dealing with other people, this place is her home away from home. A sanctuary where she can set her heart free!
Pressing play she bends down, discarding the remote. Her other hand firmly placed on the bar clenches as she slowly starts to straighten, her movements smooth as silk in the soft moonlight. The soft notes of a piano guides her slow and meticulous movements as she stretches out, still refusing to let go of the bar, like a bird trapped unable to take flight and holding on for dear life.
The music changes; it suddenly explodes as other instruments join in. Her hand lets go and her body is set free to follow the music. Jaenelle twirls on one foot, eyes closed as she loses herself to the rhythmic notes. Gone are the troubles, the stress and the problems. Here the music is her god, the moon her only companion.
She extends her leg and flits across the dance floor toes pointed strait and arms gracefully extended. Jaenelle leaps twice imagining herself as a bird taking flight free from its cage. She stops and jumps where she stands, her legs extending into a split before landing daintily once more. Her pointed toes tap in quick succession as she makes her way back to the bar. In the mirror she sees herself, her small movements almost turning her into a floating apparition. The closer she gets to the bar the larger her movements become, almost forceful from her previous ones. She skips towards it, her torso thrust forward. She stops.
No! She will not yet return to the cage. She kicks out with one leg towards the bar, her hands following the same line of direction. As if pulled by a different force her body moves away once more and the music reaches its arc before suddenly dropping into low soft tones.
For a few moments she glides around the dance floor freely, her graceful steps granting the freedom she longed for.
The music changes to low lamenting tones and she dances closer to the bar. Heading in its direction, but then suddenly turning away only to repeat the same process her movements taking her back slowly in a yow-yow like pattern.
The music stops and her hand softly touches the bar, almost caressing it. Her body bends down, her other arm flowing its way down to her toes.
The moment of freedom…. is over.
Your piece did a reasonable job of depicting a dance scene, with good description of some aspects of ballet (as far as I can tell, though I really know nothing about ballet), but it did little to reveal much about the main character other than her love of dance. It would have been quite easy to insert small details that help the reader get to know Jaenelle as a person.
The grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors need to be fixed if you ever want to get to the next level of writing. The line "Pressing play she bends down, discarding the remote. Her other hand firmly placed on the bar clenches as she slowly starts to straighten, her movements smooth as silk in the soft moonlight" looks like you randomly put a period in the middle of a sentence. It took me four or five readings before I realized it was supposed to be "Her other hand, firmly placed on the bar, clenches as she slowly starts to straighten". Suffice to say, it is really bad for reading immersion. You used the wrong "straight" and spelled "yo-yo" wrong.