Writing Prompt: Props & Characterization
This week’s writing prompt focuses on characterization, specifically creating a character with props alone. Not sure what I mean? Check out the Netflix Jessica Jones teaser, which is a perfect example of this technique.
Jessica does nearly nothing in this trailer. We don’t even see her face, but we know what to expect from her character. Why? The props. This technique is used in both film and in writing to create an idea of a character from their surroundings. I have never read a graphic novel or comic books featuring Jessica. I don’t know anything about her character. I haven’t even read up on the hype for this series. From this teaser’s props alone, here’s what we can put together:
- Like the state of her apartment, her life is a mess right now. She doesn’t have the will or the time to get her life in order.
- There’s a newspaper classified section on the floor. She’s looking for a job, and based on the other evidence, she probably has a hard time keeping one.
- She got undressed in a hurry, her clothes are everywhere. She probably stumbled in late the night before. Which is also evident by the time her alarm is set for (in the afternoon).
- Stumbled in? Yep, the apartment has multiple bottles of hard alcohol, some empty. Their inclusion tells us she most-likely has a problem with alcohol consumption.
- Multiple photographs are scattered on the floor with a pretty expensive camera. Maybe she’s a photographer? Or maybe she’s investigating? Is this the job she can’t keep?
- The apartment’s furniture is purposefully retro and cheap. It looks like it was chosen hastily from a thrift store or maybe it’s one of those cheap pre-furnished apartments. The person who lives here probably struggles with money.
Prompt: Keeping in mind the Jessica Jones teaser, create a character and write a setting so that the props tell a story about your character’s personality. You should not have any dialogue, and you should not include more than a glimpse of your actual character.
Keep the description under 500 words.
All the Way Down
The apartment was never silent. CPUs, external hard drives, cooling fans, and monitors hummed continuously, filling the room with the song of the electric fairy. For any other inhabitant, the place could have been what they call a “good-size” studio apartment. As it was, however, a realtor would have downgraded it to the euphemistic “cozy”. A horror vacui had seized the spaced and clearly conquered. The walls shrank in with the many shelves that filled the room. Across their dustless surfaces, plastic figures had been arranged in unlikely vignettes. My Little Ponies cuddled next to Spawn. Ninja Turtles shared pizza with Barbie, who was entirely garbed in GI Joe’s fatigues. Rockem Sockem Robots waited with anticipation to knock each other’s blocks off. Luke and Leia dueled each other in the battle George Lucas was either too wise or too cowardly to include in his trilogy. In the space not claimed by this plastic theater, the spines of graphic novels boasted their names. Under the shelves, comic book long boxes outlined the perimeter of the room, breaking only for the room’s furniture: two desks, a futon, and an entertainment center.
The rebellious sun pushed through the inches where the dark curtains parted. Its light glared against the television that consumed most of the apartment’s central wall. Under its sleek screen, consoles stacked on consoles like so many turtles. On either side, the contents of the two desks beeped and blinked, their blue and red lights twinkling in and out like the birth and death of stars. Both desks held two monitors and numerous black boxes with various functions. Marks on the floors had recorded the path of the wheeled, leather chair from one desk to the other, back and forth in front of the permanently-couched futon where blankets and pillows had been wadded into a ball and shoved to the side. A game master would have presented only two options to exit the main room. One, an opening that lead to the four-cabinet kitchen and the bathroom next to it; the other, the door to the realm at large.
Out there, keys scratched against the lock and a purple-laced boot propped the door open. The wearer of the boots took the groceries straight to the kitchen, putting both the bags into the refrigerator without bothering to unpack them. Hopping on one foot as she removed her boots and tossed them to the door, she pulled the leather chair to the furthest desk. Practiced fingers hit a series of buttons and the electronics in front of her came to life, throwing their comforting blue glow on her face. The fingers on her left hand flew between the keys that her eyes never glanced to. Her right hand molded itself around the mouse, and thus she moved without moving.