July 6, 2007

Fiction Friday: character sketch

This week's theme: Choose one of the following odd character names and create a character sketch to go along with it. Make it an interesting character because we’re going to use them in a future [Fiction] Friday.

Marmalade Zilch Silence Gerund
Minty Wicked Electron Ism
Broke Hex Yule Eave
Siren Parsley Tart Deal
Ebb Surreal Tepid Dime

Gerund Maplethorpe's greatest gratitude in life is that he is not his sister. Her name is Participle, and although Gerry went through school without anyone really noticing his real name, most people immediately ignored what Participle's parents called her (Tice) and opted for either Party or Sippy. Gerry's second greatest gratitude in life is that no one has figured out they could call him "Undie".

Gerry and Party were born in the early 1980s to two Yale professors who thought names needed to be more creative. They liked the trend of children being named Nike and Adidas; it tickled their overdeveloped sense of irony. Gerund was born in 1982 and had a case of hiccups for nine days straight. Party was born in 1982 as well, just 10 months later, and their parents were divorced a mere sixteen months after that.

Now 25 years old, Gerry is working as a technical sales rep for a small contractor that makes electronic sensors specifically designed for the aerospace industry, with particular emphasis on warplanes. He has not spoken to his father in three years, since graduating from San Diego State in engineering. Although clever and always near the top of his class, Gerry hates being in the limelight at all. He was the only kid in his school in 20 years to score perfect on the college entrance exam. But he made sure to get a D in gym in senior year so he wouldn't be one of the top two in GPA and have to give a speech at graduation. He chose San Diego State because it was the farthest away he could go and still be in mainland US.

Gerry is just five foot six inches with skin that tans easily and an athletic frame. Girls often notice his dark eyes first--not for their beauty but for the lack of any apparent emotion or feeling in them. Gerry hangs back from crowds and tends to observe. People who don't know him are creeped out and often leave with the first impression that he has the potential to become a true psychopath. They're wrong, of course. Gerry is actually incredibly kind and generous in his soul. What those people see is his internal struggle not to be his father. He can feel it, every day, every moment, creeping in on him. It's why he chose engineering instead of the more natural English. It's why he chooses to sail on the Sound and hike in the mountains instead of visit museums and go to plays.

Gerry does stay in close contact with Party, who naturally had a fun time through college. Also brilliant, Party stayed closer to home and attended Harvard, and at just 25 she's about to have her first novel published... to the great delight of their literary parents. The novel is titled, of course, "Party Girl," and Gerry hates it. He hates his sister's success, her choice of following their parents' paths, her growing fame. He hates the story in the book and knows she's capable of far better. He hates that she sold herself out to the bubble gum world of chick-lit fluff, opting for popularity over literary quality. He hates that he has such a literary snobbishness and wishes he were more blue collar and down to earth.

Gerry has put so much of himself into not becoming his father that he's forgotten to find out who he is and should become. He really has no dreams, other than the dream of never publishing a literary novel and never becoming an elitist know-it-all prick. But dreaming about not becoming something is not the same as dreaming about becoming something else, so Gerry has mostly ended up not attaching himself to anything. He makes friends and drifts apart. He joins a hiking club and then drops out. He watches two episodes of a TV drama and then forgets about it. He's had three girlfriends but now doesn't bother to ask anyone out because they never stick around.

Gerund's life is stalled, and he's dropped the key down a sewer grate. He thinks he might go to Alaska and see whether crab fishing is as appealing as it looks on the Discovery Channel. He hates himself for recognizing the irony in his life: his sister is named Participle, but he's the one who's dangling.

9 comments:

d.challener roe said...

That last line gave me the giggles. For that exact reason I would have given the name Participle to a boy.

So, you watch Deadliest Catch as well? If you watch Discovery Channel you're likely to see a little bit of another Discovery Channel personality in my Gerund.

P.S. Participle would make an awesome same.

beth said...

I giggled at the last line, as well - clever, but very appropriate to Gerry's tale.

lissa said...

I guess Gerry doesn't know what he wanted yet, trying too hard not to be his father, he sounds like one of those recluse writers to be

I also like the last line

~willow~ said...

... this is when I should have allowed myself to see others' works before sitting down and writing my FF for the week ... I like your character, love the word play, excellent last line :-)

Tammi said...

I'm with the others on the brilliant last line. One of those clever thoughts that makes me jealous. Interesting that Gerund has an Irish twin, Participle. Both are derived from verbs and function out of there elements; one thing becoming another in a sense.

Details about the dad are striking and the very absence of the mother is intriguing.


Yes. Another introvert but I originally wanted to choose Hex. (He is a small child)but I actually scared myself so I thought I'd let it rest.

Jeff said...

For some reason I am so curious to find out if Gerund finds his true self? I liked the story but it doesn't sound like he's having much fun in life

d.challener roe said...

To pjd,

I hadn't noticed that until you said it on lissa's blog, but you're right. Most of us wrote about loners. I wonder if that had to do with the directive to write one character, or if we unconsciously assumed that such odd names would alienate the characters.

Finn said...

Very cute line at the end; it made me smile.

And I can so identify with this guy...

paisley said...

i loved it the ending really dragged me in.. the irony of it all.. this is a great character...