My entries for the WDC Survivor Game
|Challenge #3 Prompt: Create a new character in your mind. One that you have never used in a story before. Answer the following questions about this imaginary person - you might be surprised at how real they suddenly become:
1. What does the person look like - all the way down to the last detail? Does she have any scars? If she does, where'd they come from? What other odd traits might she have?
Piper Crow literally grew up without a mirror. Had she one to look into now, she’d see a seventeen-year-old girl staring back at her. Though she’s lived her life isolated from most of the world in a single-wide with windows too narrow and high up to catch her reflection, nonetheless the opportunity to gaze at herself would reveal nothing surprising. She knows, for example, that she’s a 'big' girl; she always has been. The clothes she wears are from the Salvation Army, women’s size 12. They're a pretty good fit, though she has to roll up pant legs and sleeves.
She’s never needed a mirror to know what kind of hair she has. It’s long, so when she holds up the ends she can see that it’s dirty blonde. She’s never been able to brush it from her scalp straight down to the bottom of a lock because it’s kinky curly. In fact, it’s all she can do to finger comb it every day and ward off its tendency to twist into matted dreadlocks.
People in town comment most on two of Piper’s physical characteristics:
The first is her eyes. She has the grayest eyes anyone’s ever seen, according to those who have offered the information. But few realize that on the infrequent day when the sun is able to shine through the coal-dusted atmosphere of West Virginia – an occurrence rare as desert rain – Piper’s eyes lighten into the most incredible ice-emerald green.
The other thing people always notice about Piper is her teeth. For a child who has never seen a dentist, her teeth are exceptionally straight and brilliantly white. It’s a true anomaly in nature, the sort of trait Hollywood elite are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to produce in their own mouths.
2. What happened in this person's past to make her who she is today? Was she divorced, abused, loved, cared for, pushed away, etc?
Piper was the oldest child of two, but her younger sister passed away from dehydration when she was a baby. Piper was two at the time and doesn't remember her. Her father was killed in a mining accident the next year, and she remembers him thanks to the sole photograph to survive him. After the deaths, Piper's mother mourned herself right into a crack addiction that she’s now paying for, with three to five years of her life.
While her mother is in prison, Piper’s grandparents live with her in the two-bedroom trailer. They’re good to her, but they’re simple people. With no formal education of their own, they don’t insist Piper go to school, just like they didn’t make her mama go when she was a child. Shooing away the truancy officer is, for them, as much an expression of their love as it is a form of entertainment.
Piper’s mornings begin the same every day, rising early to tend to her grandparents' small garden. Depending on the season, she’s either tilling the soil, sowing seeds, weeding, watering or pruning the plants, or harvesting the vegetables. Only in wintertime does she get to sleep in. From the garden, she goes to the shack they affectionately call ‘The Barn’ to feed and water the chickens and the goats. With fresh eggs and bucket of warm milk in hand, she heads up to the trailer to fix breakfast for MawMaw and PawPaw.
The afternoons are hers. She roams the mountain forests near her home, communing with nature and dreaming of the world outside, the world she knows is there but understands very little about.
PawPaw always brings her with him when he rides into town once a week. Just a couple streets large, everyone there knows one other. There’s a small grocer’s store, a drug store, a coin laundry, a gas station, a hardware store, the Salvation Army, and the First Baptist Church. This is all Piper has ever known of community. She’s neither loved nor hated; she just belongs.
3. What kind of temperament does she have, and why? Does it have something to do with her past?
Piper Crow has endured great loss in her young life. When her sister and father passed within a year of each other, most kids her age couldn't comprehend that people die. Most had never even lost a pet. Piper took it all in stride, remaining shockingly stoic and well-behaved at both funerals. (Maw-Maw recalls Piper never really played after that, though, not the way children typically do. She didn’t run around or rock her baby dolls or splash in mud puddles.)
Once her mama went to prison, Piper rarely smiled. She spoke only when she was spoken to, though she was always pleasant in her limited conversation. The only toys she asked for year after year for her birthday or for Christmas were paper and crayons or colored pencils. When she went out on her afternoon walks, she usually carried a pad of paper and pencils with her. Occasionally she showed her grandparents her drawings, but mostly she just squirreled them away in a trunk in her room. MawMaw and PawPaw, being simple folk, praised her art when they saw it but didn’t ask to see more. And Piper rarely offered to show it to them.
4. How would she react in the following situations? a. A divorce? b. Someone cheating on her? c. Winning the lottery (what would she do with the money?)
Piper admired the easy compatibility she witnessed between her grandparents. It was beyond the scope of her imagination that one day they could get a divorce. After all, they were old. Plus, she knew the church would have a fit it they even tried to split up. That’d be trampling on their sacred wedding vows, and anything ordained by God, Himself was a thing to be honored. Everyone knew that.
Piper had never had a boyfriend. All the boys her age went to the high school and dated girls in their classes. At church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, she kept her gray eyes cast down – especially when the boys walked past. Having a boyfriend was a foreign idea to her, so having one that cheated on her was as abstract a concept as snow is for a little girl growing up on the equator.
It’s not that she pictures herself growing into an old maid, one day. It’s just that she doesn’t envision much about her future, at all. Life began for her here in West Virginia, and life will end for her here, too. Once in a while she does fantasize, though. When she and PawPaw go into the gas station to pay for the week’s fuel, she likes to look at the shimmering, colorful lottery tickets for sale. If she won the lottery, she’d buy a plane ticket and visit what she calls “The Outside.” She doesn’t even know where she’d go. If pressed, she might say China, just because April Maynard from church always wanted to dig a hole when they played as children, deep enough to cut clear through to China. That’s on the other side of the world, according to April. So China would be Piper’s first choice; you couldn’t get much farther away from West Virginia than China. Or else, Piper reasoned, you’d wind up getting closer again.
5. What kind of friends does she keep, if any? Does she actually trust her friends, or are they there for convenience?
Speaking of April Maynard, she is probably the closest thing Piper has to a friend. They always pair up when the teen counselors at church have activities planned for the children. She’s pretty bossy though, and she’s really smart. Goes to the high school, and all.
Piper is quiet around April, lets her do the talking and deciding and designating of things needing designation. Piper is fine being a follower. That’s what’s comfortable. Plus, she’s self-conscious about the fact that April is about fifty pounds lighter than she is. And April knows, of course, that Piper doesn’t go to school. Piper doesn’t think April assumes she’s a dummy, or anything. West Virginia is rural poor; illiteracy runs high and people lack refinement. Piper is pretty normal, when it comes right down to it. But, attending school is a social status symbol, of sorts. That’s understood. Although Piper doesn’t articulate it, the fact the April is being educated stands between them. It’s an unspoken rift in their relationship that Piper wouldn’t consider bridging.
And so Piper lives an introverted, lonely life. Her drawings transport her thoughts to places unknown that call to her in whispers only her soul can hear. Little does she know that the metaphorical winds of change are about to blow in the physical form of a deadly tornado. The twister will scatter pieces of her devastated life across “The Outside.” If she wants to put them back together, she’ll have to go out and find them, first.