The first section of my creative writing class was about characterization and developing a character’s voice. We had a couple of creative writing exercises to do. One prompt was to imagine running after someone who can’t hear you, you are out of breath. You have a secret that you must tell this person. Anyway, this was what I wrote.
Feet jarring against unforgiving pavement and arms flailing through ashy air like a cat caught in the currents of a river rapid, I feel like I’m drowning.
My lungs burn with a bloody fire that would put the demon dragons to shame. I swear I’m the first soldier allergic to running, but I’m not the first allergic to death and I find myself moments away from succumbing to its threat. Trying to stay afloat in a whirlpool of tumultuous associations and betrayal; ironically, here I am running straight into the arms of the blackest heart.
If I wasn’t desperate.
If I wasn’t a masochistic imbecile.
He doesn’t hear me. Of course he doesn’t, a bird on my own shoulder wouldn’t hear that pathetic whimper. Surely he sees the unflattering spasms running up my arms.
Turn around man! Turn around, turn around, turn around! Nothing.
Desperate times, desperate measures. No one’s called him that in years. Then again, no one else is crazy enough or hopeless enough to risk impalement over a poorly chosen, centuries old nickname.
I drop to the ground, my face now intimate with the earth beneath my feet, as a dagger streaks over my unarmored shoulders. He missed. He never misses. I’ll take that as my warning and disregard it. By the time I make it back on my feet he’s started off again. My heart is banging, threatening to break out of it’s cage, in cahoots with its neighboring lungs to kill me before Jori gets the chance, or the others. Maybe I should be grateful.
“Jori, st-stop!” Stuttering, nice. That always encourages obedience in the lawless.
He stops and stares through me. I’m not fooled; he doesn’t follow anyone’s orders.
“Did you not receive my parting gift? Trust me, I will not miss a second time.”
There it is, the I’m only stopping because I want to murder you and not because you told me to line.
“You don’t miss the first time either.”
I swallow audibly and place my hand at the base of my own weapon. I must truly have a death wish.
He runs roughened fingers through his choppy black locks and wraps his hands around the back of his neck, still staring. “No? Still think I’m perfect, I see.”
“Ha! God no!” I choke down a humorless laugh and look at his troubled slate grey eyes in earnest, “I mean, no. No one’s perfect Jori.”
“About time you figured it out. That mean you’re stepping down from your pedestal?”
I am silent. If you only knew how far removed from that pedestal I’ve fallen.
Jori gives me a once over and turns his back on me. That’s better; it’s easier if he’s not looking at me. I make sure my hand is steady on my weapon—just in case—before finding my voice again, “I killed them, all of them.”
“By your blade?” I can’t read any emotion in his voice.
“N-no, but it might as well have been.”
“You have to wield the weapon to be the one to kill.”
“Even if you personally signed the death warrant?”
His sword is at my throat in an instant. I’ve never seen a man move so fast.
I hold his gaze, refusing to back down. Bluff confidence; he taught me that at least.
“By telling the truth.”
“And what would that be?” His eyes flicker and I wonder if he already knows.
“The truth is that love isn’t easy, because the heart has a will of it’s own. You can tell it not to attack, but if it wants to stop beating it does. You can tell it not to break, but sometimes it crumbles to pieces. You can tell it it’s not allowed to love someone, but every once in a while it chooses to love that person anyway. My heart chooses to love you, Jori. Against all laws, against our council’s orders, against my common sense, it chooses you. And because my heart chooses you, my council will force their hearts to stop beating. They will die today.”
My throat feels as though it’s coated in sand and my eyes sting. His sword is still at my neck. I will not cry.
After what feels like hours, he lowers his sword and I shuffle back a step—my eyes on the ground before me, no longer watching his face.
I hear his footfalls before I see his boots before me and I know. This is it. I’m not allowed to love him; he has the right and duty to kill me.
I feel his knuckles under my chin, lifting my face to his, “They won’t die for your foolishness. For it is foolish to love me. In the end I promise our love will be the end of both of us, but I will not allow it to be the end of my entire race.
“Our love?” My heart leaps, though my head is more cautious.
“Yes, you fool. Our.”
I vault into his arms, my legs wrapped around his solid waist, my lips planted solidly against his. Anyone can see us here.
I’m going to die anyway, so to hell with the consequences and to hell with the world—literally.
Any thoughts or tips on developing character voice??