Balancing Act - writercize #116

Did you catch the Guest Post yesterday by Beth Grace of Word Nerd Speaks?  It was a good one!  I double-dog challenge you to try out her 55-word writercize.  Leave your attempt as a comment, and then head over to visit Beth's blog for more of her voice!

Now, on to today ... I always love a simple character study, based off of minimal information.  It's fascinating how deeply writers can jump into a person's alleged psyche and personal life by watching small cues.  Often, the life invented is probably far more imaginative, exciting, tragic, romantic (insert appropriate adjective here) than the reality, but that's the fun of it all!

My challenge to you today is to take a simple bit of information and create a character and the situation that has driven them to this moment of time.

writercize:  A man stands on a ledge in the middle of a bridge, balanced just so that he doesn't fall.  There are witnesses positioned nearby.  He has closed his eyes for a moment and raised his head slightly to the sky.

What is his story?  Who is he and why is he there?

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.
writercizer sample response:

The man counts to three and throws himself off the bridge, flailing at first then rolling around and finally straightening out into the perfect swan dive into the icy waters below.

His head bobs up to the surface and he signals thumbs up to the director still on the bridge.  

"Good to go, or one more take?" he shouts.

"Nah, I think we got it.  Go on and dry off.  We'll call it a day," the director calls back down to his fearless stuntman.

To the camera and make-up crew, he says, "That's a wrap for today.  See you back at the studio in the morning."

The stuntman climbs out of the water and heads back to change, and the camera crew and make-up artists head back to the trailers and home.  The director sits on the bridge, watching his employees scatter back to their homes and families and starts to feel the pangs of regret and sadness for the way he allowed work to destroy his own family.  A daughter who wouldn't talk to him, a son who played varsity sports and had never once invited him to watch.  An ex-wife who couldn't bear to love him and watch him love movies more than her any longer.  Parents who had passed away without him saying good-bye because he was too deep into his films.  A brother who only spoke to him when he needed money.  Alienated and alone.  And now lonely.

The director sighs and shivers as he nears the edge of the bridge that the stuntman just jumped off.  He allows himself to feel the full weight of regret as he steps off and is pulled by gravity straight into the hard water below.

As his body breaks the surface, his last thought, which he's always imagined to be of a life flashback or memory or promise of a life after death or the sweet sound of forgiveness, is instead practical and real.  

"Damn, I didn't know it would hurt this bad," is all he can think as his body and mind cease to live.


  1. “Dad?” Shelly touches his arm lightly, and he turns to look at her. “Are you ready?”

    Jack nods and smiles at his daughter. “You look so much like her,” he says, as he pushes a lock of hair back from Shelly’s face. “So beautiful.”

    Shelly leans in to hug her father. He kisses her forehead and lingers there silently for a few moments, his head resting against hers. “I can’t believe it was almost forty-three years ago,” he says as he straightens up. “Right here, when she said yes and a few months later, back here for the ceremony. It’s all gone by so quickly. We danced our first dance as husband and wife right over there,” he says, pointing to the pavilion. The top was lit with white twinkling lights and it felt like there was magic in the air.”

    “She loved you so much, Dad. And I love you.”

    “I love you too, Shelly-bean.”

    Shelly turns and nods to the small group, who draw in closer and hold hands. Shelly holds the urn and Jack removes the lid. He places it on the ground by his feet and then puts his hands over his daughter’s and nods. “I’m ready.”

    Together, they tip the heavy container and pour its contents out over the edge of the small white bridge and into the water below. When it is emptied, Jack again lifts his face and closes his eyes, while his daughter watches quietly, silent tears running down her cheeks.

  2. http://jo-mywanderingmind.blogspot.com/2011/10/writercize-challenge-by-bethmy-entry.html

    The marriage is over. They both were aware of it.
    Walking away from 15 years is very hard indeed.
    The house, car, all the stuff to divide.
    No kids. Thank goodness. Just memories, lots.
    She wiped her eyes, hugging him.
    He hugged back. No tears.
    Over and done, finally.
    What comes next
    For each~


  3. That was, of course, Beth's challenge yesterday. Now here is today's challenge.

    It's colder than he thought it would be standing here between life an death. Jumping is the only way. Hope is gone and pain is in the future either way. Pain from the icy cold river below since November in Michigan does not permit warmth in it's running waters, or pain from the cancer that was just diagnosed, stage three and likely to take his life in a few months or less.

    Looking down and thinking back he remembers the years of partying and laughing and never thinking far enough ahead to imagine his life coming to this choice. He remembers the one and only true love of his life. Her hair smelled like flowers when his nose brushed into it. Her eyes sparkled every time she said his name.

    She was gone now. She had left him years ago when he began to think drinking with the boys was far more fun than raising a family. A family he hardly knew. Three children had been born to them and he never took the time to know them. When she left with them, he didn't even bother to track them down.

    He was alone in this world and he was not willing to linger in a hospital alone for weeks or months under pain medication just to say he was alive. He had made many bad decisions in his lifetime and this was not one of them.

    He hung his head momentarily and then raised his eyes to God and whispered, "Forgive me, for I have sinned my whole life. I have to believe now that this final sin will be forgiven, for God, it really is my only choice. Amen"

    He let go of the handrail and leaned forward.

    He didn't fall. He barely moved. His belt had caught on the loosened screw of the handrail behind him. Just as he tried to free himself to continue his fall, another pair of hands grabbed his shoulders and pulled him safely back onto the bridge.

    He cried out loud and through his tears and sobs asked, "What are you doing? I don't want to live!"

    He looked up then to see an illuminated face, the face of God. He then heard, "And I am not ready for you. Live. Maintain your balance for all the days of your life."

    The face, the voice both gone now. Complete and total silence.

    He began to walk and his mind began to clear. God was not ready for him and He had saved his sinner's soul. He would face whatever was ahead for him and cancer be damned, he would praise God for each breath he had left.


  4. Ned arrived at the bridge early. Before rush hour even had a chance to get in his way, he was there. It had been a long, long night of trouble and trial and turmoil and of course, no sleep. This hadn't been the one rare rough night, but just another in a series. The warmth of the sun had yet to shine on Ned's face this morning, but the cold night air found a way up the valley, through the unfinished deck of the bridge, and right into his clothes.

    A week ago Wednesday, Ned had reached the point of no return. He found himself crying out to God, as the father of the possessed boy had cried to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have pity, and help me.” And after the following weekend, when Jesus' challenge to the man (“IF I can do anything? Everything is possible for one who believes.”) had been echoing in Ned's mind, he continued the same conversation from Mark 9 as if he himself were that real man. “I do believe.....”

    Ned stood overlooking the ravine far below, and smiled almost ashamedly now at the rest of that prayer he had borrowed. With so much going for him, and always the envy of other men, here he was emulating one of the most mocked characters in the Bible. Who hadn't shaken their head and laughed at the seeming contradiction of the guy who said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

    So the struggle and the wrestling with God had carried on until the answer to that broken prayer had broken through this morning. In the red letters of John 16 Ned found “..in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    Now with a dozen doughnuts quickly disappearing from the box he had left on the hood of his truck, the guys watched as Ned stood with all of his God-given balance on the outside ledge of that bridge, to give thanks. He closed his eyes for a moment and raised his head slightly to the sky while he quoted back to God, the rhetorical question he had found in one of John's letters: "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."

    Thanks Alana, for the chance this gave me to expand on Ned, one of the 26 characters I imagine will one day populate my novel. Here is a bit more about Ned and company. http://millerwrites.blogspot.com/2011/05/meet-ned.html

  5. Such completely different takes on the same original narrative. I love it!

    Thanks Mike for giving it a go. Very nice twist. 26 characters in your novel - amazing. I could hardly keep 26 characters straight in real life, let alone my imagination - impressive! I will be heading over to read about Ned and company. I really like that you used the writercize to pull out more of a character that you are currently working on. It's great to know how the writercizes are used.

    Jo - thanks for posting both of these! The bit with the belt and the screw was perfect - one of those minute details that truly could happen to a person and change the entire course of their life. Great job.

    Beth - what can I say? The dialogue is spot on. The emotion is strong. Tears. Well done, as always.


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