Word.a.Day – An exercise in character development

On a writing blog that I’ve fairly recently started reading, the writer uses a word sent by Wordsmith.org as inspiration for a short story, which executes a good method for character development (not to mention just getting something down on paper).  I thought, hey, this is a good idea to get my figuratively rusty pen out for use.  Thanks to reading a lot of Margaret Atwood’s “speculative fiction”, I’ve been highly inspired to try my hand at that genre, so out came a segment to a story, which I plan to build on in word-of-the-day spurts.  Today’s word:



MEANING: noun: 1. A camp, especially one protected by a circle of wagons or armored vehicles.


There was a time, Jack thought, that his weekends hadn’t involved being picked up in the company limo—no matter how plush the leather seats were nor how satisfying the array of cured meats on silver trimmed plates tasted—with his business partners lounging around him shooting the shit about nothing in particular.  Jack turned his head towards the darkened window on his left and stared at it as if looking through at a vast country-side landscape blurring by.

“Whatcha looking at Jacky?  I don’t see anything but grey glass.”  Eddie always had an uncanny sense for stating the obvious.

“Oh nothing.  Just a bit tired, I guess.”  Jack turned back to the window, or maybe wall really was the closer term.

As on every Saturday, they were on their way to the company compound located outside the city, but exactly where he wasn’t sure.  The limo always arrived at Jack’s condo at 6:00AM, where the driver, dressed in head-to-toe black uniform, vaguely militaristic in style, with a laminated badge labelled SECURITY in big blue letters pinned to the right breast pocket of his jacket, had the standard plastic baggie open to collect restricted items before the trip began.  Jack spread his arms and showed empty hands.  After two trips, Jack had decided just to leave his iPhone at home.

As he gazed into the greyness, traveling companions’ chatter becoming white noise, he saw a 9-year-old him sitting on the padded grey seat in the middle of a yellow school bus.  He was headed to BARCS—Boys Area Recreational Camp for Summer, a provincially run program for boys aged 8 to 10.  Although his mom didn’t think so, Jack knew that this summer camp was her attempt at acclimatizing him to the company of “normal” boys his age.  Others were laughing at crude jokes and throwing wadded up bits of paper at each other, and the kid next to him was turned to face his friend across the aisle.  Jack continued looking out the bus window, wishing he were back in bedroom making up adventures and mishaps for his toy figurines.

The bus slowed down, passed through the camp gates and came to a full stop, releasing a tsssssssst.  Teenage counsellors dressed in white polos and khaki shorts walked towards the doors with clipboards while the boys were herded out and put into groups prearranged groups—Jack never figured out the logic of this grouping system, it wasn’t by age as older and younger boys were together—and told to stand behind their selected counsellor.  Jack’s was Todd, as was written on the badge hanging around his neck on red strap.

“Ok boys,” an older woman’s voice echoed out from a megaphone.  “Follow your counsellors to your cabins and get settled.  We’ll meet in the pavilion at noon for lunch and BARCS welcome ceremony.  Bring your appetites!  We’re having hotdogs!”

Many boys cheered, but Jack did not.  The woman’s voice sounded very friendly, but he knew it wouldn’t remain so upbeat.  And he was eventually right.

The limo started making a slow turn and then came to a stop.  “Looks like we’re here,” Eddie said with pride.  Jack fazed back into the present, sending a perfunctory smile Eddie’s way.

The side door opened and the bright April sunlight shot in.  From it came the image of Mr. Devonshire, the team leader employed by the company.

“Welcome boys!  Hope the ride was good.  You know Jim,” he gestured toward the driver with the SECURITY badge.  “He’ll show you to your rooms.  You’ll be staying in the east wing this time.  Have a drink and take a load off, whatever you want for the next hour and we’ll meet you in the Rosemary board room at noon.  No need to bring anything but yourselves with you.  We’ve got your project notes and summaries waiting for you in the boardroom.”

Mr. Devonshire shook each hand with his usually firm but friendly grip, smiled and stretched out his arm pointing towards the entrance of the east wing of the compound.


About seburnt

I own 4C and teach at University of Toronto. View all posts by seburnt

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