Thursday, February 09, 2006

A battery of Betty Browns

Type a name into Google's Image Search and write character sketches for a handful of the people whose pictures show up.

Try typing in your own name if it isn't unique. (I can't use either my married or my maiden name since I only end up with pictures of me!) If your brain's frozen and you can't think of a name, try Kleimo's Random Name Generator and set the "obscurity factor" to 1 to get common names. (I pasted some down at the bottom.)

Be creative! Think in terms of passion. The Betty Brown to the right was known as the Seductress of Secrets during World War 1. She winnowed her way into the affections of dozens of German leaders ferretting out secrets she passed onto British intelligence. Immediately after the war she retired to her home in Havershamshire where she raised prize roses.

That's not just a Sunday golfer in the picture, that's:
  • a man who's obsessed with golf since his wife left him because he was on the course too much and he has now been playing for 99 straight days; or
  • he's the 2nd ranked player in the world who will unknowingly strike a golf ball-bomb if his manager doesn't pay a ransom by noon; or
  • he's an amateur about to go pro being pushed to greatness by his mother who has just realized he despises golf; or
  • he's an archeologist who uncovered some long buried wizarding secrets before the tunnel colapsed and they were reburied who's been locked by an evil wizard in a dream world where there's nothing to do but play endless rounds of golf until he relents and turns over the secrets.
(This is also a fun game to play when you're stuck waiting somewhere too.)

There are some more examples of character sketches below. The magic is in the details like in the previous prompt Four Lies and a Truth. The young woman isn't just rushing to work but rushing to get to Filene's men's shirts department, noon-to-five shift, and it's the third time she'll be late.

If you want to include the picture that inspired your character sketch put your cursor over the picture and, on the Mac, hold down the control button or, on a Windows machine, hold down the right mouse button. Then click on the picture. Scroll down to Copy Image Address (the wording might be a bit different depending on your browser.) And then go to your email and paste it.

The Bus to Inspiration is a good article at The Writer's E-Zine about creating creative people sketches.

And here's a bit from What if?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. The students were challenged to imagine they were in a traffic jam at 9AM on a Sunday morning and to make up stories for the people in the 6 cars around them.
Just like the commercial, the family in the wood-paneled station wagon had their money stolen while they were buying flip-flops, and they had to call their weekend short. The boy and girl in the back seat are sucking on McDonald's shakes bought with the little bit of change they found on the car floor, and the husband and wife aren't talking to each other. Each blames the other.

The young woman in the yellow Honda is working the noon-to-five shift today in Filene men's shirt department and had to leave the party early. She is chewing her nails and hopes she makes it back in time; otherwise this will be the third time this month she's been late to work.
And a bunch of names from Klimo:
Wanda Simmon
Kayla Reinhardt
Brenda Grant
Allen Hendon
Jason Mcbride
Craig Prosser
Patrick Mckamey
Wayne Furman
Marian Scharf
Lena Brawley
Jason Frechette
Vanessa Birmingham
Brandi Ruffner
Albert Funderburk
Harriet Kearns
Ellen Bill
John Almeida
Jonathan Hollins
Nathan Behr
Mark Bunton
Bridget Vollmer
Dale Amaya
Denise Custer
Phillip Melo
Albert Abell
Dennis Waldron
Douglas Lamontagne
Colleen Copper
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