Would you like some tea?

Posted: January 15, 2011 by writingsprint in postaday2011, postaweek2011, Writing
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Today’s exercise was to write about my “internal critic” as a character. I gave him a name, a look, and so on. More later.

My internal critic’s name would be Matt. Matthew. Mr. Matthews? Okay. He would be around the same age, probably a little older, mid to late 40s, but looks like he’s in his low 50s. Mr. Matthews is thin, wears turtleneck sweaters and he always looks like he feels cold. He’s gangly underneath, bony on some of the edges of his joints. His shoulders, elbows and hips stick out, so he doesn’t like to wear swimming trunks where people will see him. Even when he eats more, the weight doesn’t seem to go where he wants it to. Matthews wears glasses. He’s become farsighted with age, so he’s constantly taking the glasses on and off, and he likes to hold them in his hand and point with the earpieces when he’s making a point.

Mr. Matthews has with average-length hair that shows gray in the temples. He speaks with a soft voice, like the sound of a creaky old house. This is from teaching literature for years, which he used to do on the side before he became a full-time critic. He likes to drink tea, and he likes colder times of year. He likes the fragile beauty of winter. He likes to wear sweaters, because they cover up his joints. Matthews smells like Earl Grey mixed with wool, cat, and fireplace smoke. When he holds his hand up by his face, when he thinks deeply about something, he can sometimes smell the smell of old books.

Matthews is a perfectionist. He feels that something worth doing is worth doing the right way, and anything less is slacking off. He had to work hard to get where he is today, and wanted more than anything else for his students to want the same in themselves. Wasted potential eats away at Matthews; he volunteers with inner-city children to try to help them fulfill theirs.

He’s still religious as a tradition; he has his doubts about religion, but he trusts the tradition more, and it gives him comfort.

Deep inside, he envies the freedom of thought that his students have, when they break the rules. Often it turns their writing into slop, but sometimes it catches fire and creates something breathtaking, that he knows never would have happened if they were just writing the way he teaches them. That’s why he still teaches. Their energy is what inspires him.

Mr. Matthews’ favorite author would be James Joyce. He would have read Ulysses twice by now and be working on his third time. He loves the intricacy, the depth of the references, and he likes books that are written on multiple levels.  Secretly, he has a thing for Tom Clancy and action novels, which he hopes to God no one ever finds out about and it destroys his credibility as a Serious Critic.

At first, I have to admit I was pretty hard on the guy. I made him bitter and a snot. Then, to have fun with it and see where things went, I rolled in yesterday’s exercise, looking at the things that I didn’t write about the first time around. I took out references to me, and where he was a sourpuss, I tried to turn them into positives, like the volunteering, and give reasons why he is the way he is.

I once heard a writer talking about his villains say that “We’re all the hero of our own story.” Matthews is a little hard on me, and a little insecure, but he’s not a bad guy, either.

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