Saturday, February 13, 2010

Heat #1: Biothlon

We thought it would be fun to do Heats just like real athletes. Each day during the Olympics, we'll post a Heat exercise. None of these exercises should swallow all your writing time (unless you let it!), but I still want to urge you to put your Event goals first. Some Heats will be judged heats with rewards, and some will be just to help you build your creativity muscles and stretch your writing muscles.

Today's is in the second non-judged category, and it deals with your specific project. We're going to write a bio. (Get it, biothlon! When your words are shot with deadly accuracy! *teehee*) But this won't be an ordinary bio. Here's how to play:

  1. Choose a character you would like to know better. (For Team Nonfiction, choose an interview subject you've already interviewed at some length, or someone you know particularly well.)
  2. If your character/subject could meet anyone in history, living or dead, who would they choose to meet?
  3. Now here's the twist. Imagine your character/subject through the eyes of this historical person. From the POV of this historical person, write a short piece describing the character/subject and what it was like to be interviewed by that character/subject. How did the character/subject behave in the presence of such an important person?

Did you learn anything new about your character or subject? Did you find it difficult to look at your character or subject through a different lens?

Leave a comment about this exercise, and you'll be entered into a pool of pen athletes to win a prize at the closing ceremonies!



Dave Shaw said...

Cleopatra VIIth meets Josey. Gotta think on that one.

Word verification: abili - need to get more of that.

Holly Rutchik said...

Team non-fiction here having a prof I'm writing about meeting Helen Keller. An interesting reflection on education taking place!
_ Holly Rutchik

Kathleen MacIver said...

My fantasy hero has now met Robin Hood. (Hopefully he's historical enough for a fantasy hero to meet!)

I discovered that the weaknesses that I am thinking about giving him do make his character more interesting. However, they do not work with part of the plot elements that I currently have in place. I need to decide whether to search for new character weaknesses for him, or whether to modify my plot. (I'm leading toward the later...more conflict and a stronger character arc that way.

Do you want us to post our interview?

Anonymous said...

My character also met Robin Hood. How weird is that.

He engineered the meeting to learn any tricks he didn't already know. I discovered you can't trick a trickster, that my character is even more arrogent than I thought.

And that this exercise was great fun.

Sandrine Thomas said...

Heh heh, my character is already in the past, so she wanted to meet someone from today--Lisa Leslie. *g*

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to see my character's reactions from someone else's point of view... even someone else inside my own head.

Very cool exercise.

Riley Murphy said...

Okay, even though I’m on team submission - I gave this exercise a whirl. I had my main character: a very strong and determined woman with an, *cough* attitude, meet the first caveman. You know, so she could see where it all went wron...I mean, began. Her thinking, is that we’ve greatly evolved, right? We’ve progressed (relationship wise), but judging from the frustrating neanderthal she’s currently stuck with for the duration of her story, she makes this choice in an attempt to understand things better between them.

Um, can I just say, she shouldn’t have, because what she found out was totally depressing. Man didn’t invent the club, the wheel, or clothes - all of these innovations came from the cave woman. Why? Well, the club is obvious, so I’ll leave that one alone. ;) The wheel - now, that was a necessity - as it kept Mr. Cave guy out of the homestead working for longer periods, and when his friends wouldn’t lend him a hand, he had the handy-dandy wheel to help him out. Clothes? again, obvious - but let me tell you, my main character was totally stunned when this epiphany struck her. Really, how much sense did this one make? Of course, men wouldn’t want their women covered up, but without women being covered up - how much work would get done? :0 Ah, a woman’s practicality to the rescue. Clothes for all - even little furry sweaters for their adorable pterodactyl pets!

But enough about her. Mr. Cave guy? Well, after spending a rather uncomfortable interview with my firecracker, he realizes if she’d been around when he was, he would have not only invented the club - he would’ve followed that deterrent up with the invention of the muzzle, the proverbial chain for the ball, followed quickly by the wheels to get him the heck away from her!

What was learned in this exercise? Hmm...that the basic instincts between men and women haven’t changed that much, and my smarmy little heroine knows it. Yep, at the end of the day, she knew, that if Mr. Cave guy did indeed invent those wheels to whisk himself away - all she’d have to do is lose the clothes and he’d soooo stay. :D What did I learn? Why, that she’s my kind of woman!

Murphy - who’d suspect, if Plato was ever married, he borrowed the phrase: necessity is the mother of invention, from his wife. ;)

Jami Gold said...

Ooo, fun! Okay, my hero, Gabriel, wanted to meet Aristotle.

Aristotle was rather impressed with Gabriel. He thought Gabriel was quite well-versed in various scientific ideas, philosophy, and ethics. He was flattered by Gabriel's questions about Aristotle's leadership advice to Alexander the Great. In other words, they had a very rousing, deep discussion.

The problem came in when they disagreed about the equality of women (Aristotle's a bit of a misogynist and Gabriel's a put-women-on-a-pedestal kind of man). At that point, Gabriel calmly took his leave, but not before he muttered under his breath about all the scientific discoveries over the last couple millennia that Aristotle was wrong about as well.

Jami G.

Jennifer Macaire said...

Have you been reading 'Time for Alexander'? lol

I wish I'd done this excercise before I finished writing the book - it's a great idea and would have made chapter one far easier to nail!

Anonymous said...

This was a fun challenge.

I chose to learn more about my secondary character, Seth. I discovered he was a reader and keen on prophecy. I hadn’t realised that before *grin*. Naturally, it was fitting he wanted to meet Nostradamus. I didn’t find it too hard to look at Seth through a different lens, as I’m close to the end of my book. I think this exercise would have been much harder if I was at the beginning of my book journey.

Anyway, this is what Nostradamus thought of Seth’s interview:

I found Seth quite cool and aloof, not the usual flopping fan. I found he analysed the rhythm of quatrain, over and over again, and sought a greater understanding of the elusive reasons as to my word choice to describe prophecy. Many of his questions delved into how I interpreted my visions, and I felt in him a burning need to find answers, as though the weight of the world weighed heavily on his shoulders. Though, I could scarcely glean this sense from his countenance, for it was relaxed except for an imperceptible, persistent frown. Yet, I found his need telling when he sniffed close to the heart of his interests. He was like a dog with a bone when I came close to the matters that interested him. And his interest, simply, was how I particularised my choice of words to describe a vision.

Anonymous said...

The character is Dr. Benjamin Santos, a medical doctor with a rapid response team in the Air Force. His hero is Doctor Walter Reed, a major in the army just after the Civil War, who is often credited with successfully combating yellow fever, which enabled the Panama Canal to be built.

Dr. Reed is writing a letter to his wife, Emilie, where he describes Dr. Santos.


There is a young doctor who has been working in both the ward and the laboratory here at the College. I'm told that he has come to study the Fever, from Cuba and he comes recommended by Dr. Carroll, who is still leading the study there.

Curious, since Dr. Carroll's praise is a rare commodity, I set out to observe young Dr. Santos.

I can admit that I was impressed. The young man observed every procedure before wading in and assisting, asking questions of the doctors rather than improvising. His sterile technique is thorough, washing hands quite vigorously between patients, even between handling his examination instruments. When he accidently dropped a reflex hammer, he put it in the cleaning tray and chose a new instrument rather than use it after it had touched the floor. I admit that I was favorably impressed.

I also had the opportunity to see how he works with the patients. A young washerwoman, an Italian girl, had been brought in with a fever. She didn't speak much English and we were not sure what the cause of her fever might have been. Dr. Santos took her hand and was able to speak with her, even though he did not know the language, through a series of hand gestures. It turned out that she did not have yellow fever, but rather Typhus. She was admitted to the typhus wing of the hospital and a translator was found, but it was Dr. Santos who was able to calm the girl down when she was hysterical with fear.

Duly impressed, I arranged to be introduced to the young man. He stared at me for a moment, then seemed to remember his manners. Unfortunately, he cast his eyes down at my feet and kept them there. He very properly shook my hand, but each and every one of his answers to my questions consisted of one or two words. When I asked him about his sterile technique, he merely said that he'd had great teachers. But on that question, he did look up and met my eyes.

I should like to be able to discuss medicine with this man, but the newspapers have done such a damned job of making me into someone I'm not, he found his tongue tied. Ah well, perhaps he will thaw in time.


Sylvia said...

Ugh, so I immediately hit a problem. The historical figures that Anne might choose are not people who I know much about!

I decided on Queen Victoria and it really did give me a new view of Anne. As I described her from Q.V.'s point of view, I realised I'd never seen Anne relating to someone that was older than her!

Dave Shaw said...

For anyone wondering what Cleopatra thought of Josey, here it is. This is mostly paraphrase, as Cleo was unwilling to write it down (she said that's what scribes are for, but none were present).

Josey is a charming girl, intelligent and witty. Her first questions were about my weight. She called me 'full-figured', a description that fits her as well. Apparently the fashion in female beauty has changed so that noble women must now starve themselves so they look like beggars. I find that revolting, but I don't think I convinced her that her shame over being 'plump' is foolish.

Although she is good at maintaining a calm facade, she gave away her sentimentality by shedding a tear when we were discussing the death of my lover Julius Caesar. Despite that sensitivity, I got the impression she is capable of ruthlessness. When I insisted on a brief description of her exploits, she described killing a witch out of hand, and then admitted to shooting the man who had killed her grandmother, a feat she performed at the age of four. I got the impression a 'gun' is like a small bow or some such thing, simple enough for a small, determined child to operate. She declined to produce such a weapon and demonstrate its effects, a disappointment to be sure. Unfortunate, as it would have been handy when the foolish 'author' asked me to soil my hands by writing!

Despite her apparent bloodthirstiness, I'm not sure she could have survived as a member of my dynasty, as she became almost hostile when we discussed my half-sister Arsinoƫ. She thought I should have sought reconciliation with my rival rather than ask Marcus Antonius to kill her for me. If one is reluctant to kill family, how is one to secure one's position in this world?

I offered Josey a place in my army, as with a few warriors as capable, loyal, and impressively armed as her, I could swat Octavian's legions aside and protect both my kingdom and the father of my younger children. Unfortunately, she has already given her service to another.

Amanda said...

My MC, Grace, met Washington Irving and I discovered that she is not as timid and nervous as I originally thought she was. She is well-spoken and put together when she needs to be. I'm happy with my discovery!

Leona said...

Is it too late to enter? I'm sure that you wouldn't stop me from doing them on my own, but I'm one of those people who need to be held accountable or I'll procrastinate endlessly. This exercise would be exciting for me to do with my paranormal erotica series...

Leona said...

I changed my mind. Here's Cerisa, the heroine from my fantasy novel in a world that includes the paranormal as normal. (This is the NaNoWriMo novel I did. I needed more time with my main character :)

Cerisa Daughter of the queen of two kingdoms, grew up a peasant, her best friend is a dragon, has magic powers that are just starting to get too strong for her to control without her mentor.
She’d like to meet Merlin (does he count?)

Rest on next post :)