Okay, so, here’s the deal: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about layering characters, and about recurring themes within characters, and about the sheer volume of different things that fandom can do with a fully defined character. Think about how many different versions of your favorite characters there are, for real: SO MANY. Because every character is a little different in every new story they’re in, even if it’s just a couple of tweaks, even if it’s just the author’s specific headcanon, etc, etc.
So! We’re going to do a thing now. I’m going to throw out the barest bones of a character, a couple details for everyone to go off of, and then we’re going to write! About that character! It doesn’t have to be a full story; it doesn’t have to be a story at all. It can be a character sketch or a list of ideas, it can be an out-of-context scene, it can be a snippet of something you never intend to flesh out, etc etc. It can be whatever you like! This is just about illustrating that the process of building a character doesn’t mean they have to come to you as fully formed people—that, in fact, for a lot of us that’s not how it works at all.
So: meet Parker, whose name is gender neutral because that shit is up to you! Here are the things we know about Parker: Parker is stubborn to a fault, prone to inappropriate/nervous laughter, and possessed of an addictive personality. Parker is a good listener, but not always a fantastic talker. Parker is superstitious, and easily frightened, and very loathe to let on about being easily frightened. And Parker has a secret…
THAT’S IT. REBLOG AND TRY IT OUT. My stab at it is under the cut; I don’t intend to do anything with it, so if you’d prefer to go off of a slightly more sketched out version of a character, feel free to knock yourself out expanding that instead :D
Parker’s favorite Shakespeare play is Titus Andronicus. It is bloody, and everybody dies, but there is a kind of justice that Parker can understand. And eye for an eye for an eye, and so on ad infinitum. Her father only ever stages the comedies, because he doesn’t have the mental fortitude for tragedy or the patience for history, but Midsummer Night’s Dream sits well with his smile.
"For aught that ever I could read could ever hear by tale or history; the course of true love never did run smooth," her father murmurs when he tucks her into bed at night. Sometime he mistakes the plays and mixes them: "I to the world am like a drop of water that in the ocean seeks another drop."
"My father is crazy," Parker does not say. She says, "My father is a genius."
As a child, she had spoken only in iambic pentameter. Her father talked only in quotation; she hadn’t learned words like “stoplight” and “telephone” until the bar downstairs installed cable television and the sports commentaries drifted up to her through the open window. Sometimes, when she is nervous, her words rhyme.
For this she keeps her mouth shut, when she can. When sound bubbles up, she damps down soliloquys and laughter bubbles out instead, but she accepts this trade. She buys groceries, and pays bills, and works after school at the local community college running lights for their production of Richard II. At home her father obsesses over how to produce Antigonus’ bear; he cannot exit without the bear, “it is in the stage directions, Parker, you cannot ignore Shakespeare himself,” and Parker nods over her pasta—it is the fourteenth day in a row they have had pasta, because her father cannot use the stove and she is terrible at following recipes.
"He exits, pursued by a bear," Parker recites, and she had heard it said as a joke once, but in this house, it is law.
Parker stays up sewing ruffles onto gowns so that her father’s actresses are era-appropriate. Her fingers bleed from pricks, but she finishes. She has her father’s stubbornness for these things. She stitches, tears them out when they are not right, and re-stitches until morning. She has a math test at eight a.m. and she barely considers the numbers: they line up for her on the page like all her father’s monologues, to be or not to be, would that this too too sullied flesh, negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared—
This is Parker’s secret, the numbers, the way the world fits into them. Her father sees faeries in thunderstorms but Parker sees a hundred million volts of potential in a single spark of lightening.
During Richard II, the lights are wrong, the angles terrible, so Parker hangs around until everyone has gone and climbs up into the rafters to fix them. Angles are numbers, light is numbers, everything is numbers, so she makes the proper changes. When asked, she shrugs, she doesn’t know who was last in the building last week—she’d only hung back for a few minutes because she’d misplaced her phone.
Then she giggles, just at the wrong time, but no one notices. High school girls giggle; that’s what high school girls do.
She sits in the third row, behind the director, and scribbles down his dictations. She does equations in her head while she writes.
"Something is wrong,” the man says, to himself, and Parker—who is too busy counting multiples of four hundred and thirty seven—says, “it is because you do not understand Henry.”
Parker looks up, startled. Her grip tightens on her pen. “Oh, um,” she says, “the secret is in Henry IV, part one, you—I mean, ‘can’st thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose to the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude; and, in the calmest and most stillest night, with all appliances and means to boot, deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down; uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’ That is why—that is the key to every scene with him in it in Richard II.”
"How do you have all that memorized?"
"My father is crazy," Parker does not say. She says, "I have an excellent memory."
At night she puts her father to bed and does dishes to the sound of his reciting. He reminds her in these moments of Ophelia, though he saves her for the Saturdays that they go to her mother’s grave. It is almost predictable, “I cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him i’ the cold ground,” but she knows his grief to be what it is. Her father is not crazy; he is merely lost.
Her father quizzes her with dialogue, and she names the play: here lies a wretched corpse of wretches soul bereft—Timon of Athens; take but degree away, untune that string, and hark, what discord follows—Troilus and Cressida; old fashions please me best; I am not so nice to change true rules for odd inventions—Taming of the Shrew.
Sometimes she gets them wrong, and her father looks at her with eyes filled with such betrayal that she feels herself a failure; she has forgotten the names of the knots that hold his veins together, she has forgotten the formulas that make his world. She loops her fingers through her dead mother’s necklace when the quiz begins: it is good luck. All the best heroines have tokens.
Her father calls it superstition, and she says, “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.”