Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | May 17, 2014


At the NESCBWI 2014 conference, I attended an excellent workshop with Julie Berry and Kendra Levin titled “Write what you don’t know.” After a first basic writing prompt, they asked us to think about the character we had just created, and re-write the scene with an entirely opposite character. Here is the opposite character I described:

A young boy who’s outgoing – talkative, loves people – scared of being alone – craves accomplishing useful things. Wants to change the world. 

And here is a scene from his point of view:

One eye opens. Blurry world, ugh. Why do mornings have to happen? Couldn’t the day just start in the middle? I scan my room like an explorer about to summit Mt. Everest. Pile of shoes – there. Pile of crumpled clothes, must contain both underwear and pants and possibly two socks. Helmet and pick-axe, by the door. If I plan it just right, I can sleep for 12 more minutes, then navigate the path to be dressed and out the door in under 30 seconds. I close my eyes, and let my mind start to drift – what was that dream? An airplane in our backyard surrounded by giant… cows?

“Bernard! Bernie!”

Crap. The 30-second plan! I have the 30-second plan all worked out!

“Time to get up!”

They weren’t cows, they were mountain goats. And they only spoke Spanish. And they were eating the plane. And I needed to get on that plane and fly it – it was my only way to get away from the work camp, only now I can’t remember where I was going.

I hear the door open. Pretend to be fast asleep, like the dead. Pretend to be sick. Cough a little, no don’t. look peaceful, she’ll think you’re adorable and leave you alo—

Yank, Aunt Hannie pulls me out of bed and throws a pile of clothes at me. “You’re late.”

“I’ll be ready in 30 seconds,” I mumble.

And I am! I really am! I timed it on my watch, and it literally takes 27 seconds. I have a whole three seconds to amble down the front walk to wait for Mr. Thorton to drive me to the work camp, where I’ll spend all day whacking bits of rock into smithereens. Once, last year, Bruce broke open a rock with a hunk of kiloromite inside. That single, bright green stone made the company enough money to keep us all working another five years. Oh goodie.

I wait, swinging my helmet back and forth. Aunt Hannie tugs her fingers through my hair, then stops the helmet mid-swing and cleans off the visor with a cloth.

“We’re never going to find any more kiloromite,” I say. “It’s all dug up already. That’s what Bruce’s older brother says, and he’s been working there 10 years! Why do I have to go? Why can’t I work for a different company? How about one that raises mountain goats. Do mountain goats bite?”

Aunt Hannie frowns. “There’s Mr. Thornton. Good luck today, Bernie.”


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