An Uncapped Pen

November 6, 2009

Meet Joe, Assignment 1

Filed under: Writing Exercises — cindylv @ 1:42 am
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Welcome to the Writing School In My Head.  Sometimes I get so caught up in WRITING THE DAMN BOOK that I forget to enjoy writing.  I can’t afford any classes or, heaven forbid, any more writing instruction books.  So I have an imaginary writing instructor in my head who doles out free writing assignments.  Free Writing.  Just open the pen and go.  Whoosh!

Assignment 1:  Create two characters named Joe (or Jo) and describe them.

Joe Number 1:  Male, unmarried.  He lives alone.  He has a strong relationship with his mother (not necessarily a good thing). Dad – still living, but in the shadow of his wife, Joe’s mother.  Joe’s losing his hair.  He’s maybe 35 years old.  If he loses his hair (and begins to look more like his Dad) how will he ever get a wife and grant his Mother the grandchildren she craves, she deserves?  All she’s ever asked for.  Like a court.  Shining, happy grandbabies to admire and adore her. And teach them how to make perogies, like her grandmother did.

Joe sets his sights too high.  He should lower his expectations and catch a waitress.  Someone who’s used to serving others.  According to his mother.  Wives are better if they aren’t too smart.  Or too pretty.  Hey!  How did that happen?  Joe’s mother has taken over.  I could hardly keep up with her voice in my head. 

But look what I’ve learned about Joe.   He’s pathetic.  And probably has chubby hips and stooped shoulders.  And if I let her go on, I can see a confrontation in a page or two over those darn perogies.

I don’t know if Joe is short or tall.  I don’t care at this point.  But I can almost see the crocheted toilet cover lid in his bathroom.  I can see his resigned shrug and hear his apologetic voice offering excuses for her.  I mean Her. “She only wants what’s best,” he says.  But best for whom?  Probably not him. 

What about their names?  Mom, I should say, “Mother” needs something solid, grand…an imperious name.  Eleanor, maybe.  Or should I consciously cut against the grain and label her with something fluffy and soft.  Something that brings to mind an image she’s had to struggle to overcome:  Poppy?  Or Millicent? Or should I play off the perogies and tap into a ethnic vein?  I like Katerina. There’s a name you could cut yourself on.

And what about Joe?  So far, I’ve established that he’s not a Joe-Cool type of guy.  More of an everyday Joe, who’s mother named him Joseph, after St. Joseph.  The earthly father of Jesus.  A name so huge, a standard so high.  Under the weight of those expectations, it’s no wonder Joe slouches!

If Joe’s driving in the middle of the night and comes to an intersection controlled by a flashing red light, and no traffic for miles around, does he come to a complete stop?  I would say yes. 

He buys his clothes off the rack, knit shirts and regular pants (not trousers).  He shops in the Men’s department, two aisles over from Automotive.  When he shaves his neck, he wonders how far down he should shave. Aftershave?  Old Spice.

He lives in a two-bedroom apartment with dingy white walls and worn carpeting that used to be beige.  His bathroom is functional, a toilet, a sink with metal legs, and a shower stall.   A metal medicine cabinet is embedded in the wall above the sink.

His kitchen has formica counters.  He stores his two pots and a frying pan inside his oven.  In the  fridge, he’s got a box of canned beer and a shelf of dead leftovers from his mother’s table.  A full set of ivory china, with gold ribbons and blue flowers, collects dust in the cabinets over the sink, a gift from his parents on his 30th birthday.  It was supposed to be a wedding gift, but …

Describe Joe in terms of what he’s not:   Not too many people have to look up to talk to him.  He’ll  never be tall enough to please his mother.  Joe’s not the kind of guy who wears glasses.  He squints.  He’s never had to share a bedroom with a brother, never had to wear hand-me-downs. Joe doesn’t drive a pickup truck with a poodle on his lap.  Nor does he drive a sportscar, foreign and sleek, with a personalized professional firefighter’s license plate that says, “OOUCH.”

His sugarless chewing gum doesn’t have layers of flavors or a squirt of minty gel hidden in the middle.  His toothbrush doesn’t come with batteries and he squeezes his toothpaste in the middle or wherever he happens to grab it.  He doesn’t stand in his closet in the morning wondering which pair of loafers will showcase his new socks with yellow chevrons.  His earlobes remain unpierced.

His doctor is not female.  He doesn’t remember the last time he went to the dentist. His apartment building doesn’t allow pets.


Tomorrow, I’ll start on another Joe/Jo.

PS:  You can play, too.


1 Comment »

  1. […] writing | Leave a Comment  So my friend CindyLV recently gave herself a writing assignment:  Meet Jo(e).  She also said, “you can play, too.”  So, I will.  Herewith, Piglet’s Meet […]

    Pingback by The writing school in CindyLV’s head « Labrador Retrievers of Doom — November 28, 2009 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

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