A week or two ago, I
blogged raved about attending Seattle’s YA or Bust tour stop. In case you’ve forgotten or are unaware, YA or Bust featured contemporary YA authors Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, and Gayle Forman, who discussed writing and their books. One question they were asked during the panel portion of the event had to do with character development. This question got the authors extra excited. “Let’s do the Page 69 Test!” Gayle suggested.
You can find out more about the original Page 69 Test HERE (it’s a cool and unique book blog). The YA or Bust authors have modified the initial idea to demonstrate how they develop character. Nina, Stephanie, and Gayle each read an excerpt from one of their novels (from page sixty-nine, obviously), and then discussed how the excerpt revealed something about the passage’s character(s). Nina used her MC’s reaction to his setting to reveal more about the kind of person he his. Stephanie showed what one of her characters carried in his pocket, which spoke volumes about his personality. And Gayle read lyrics written by her MC, which illustrated the pain he was going through when he penned them.
I learned so much from the YA or Bust Page 69 Test, I thought it would be fun to do my own. Below is an excerpt from page sixty-nine of my manuscript Where Poppies Bloom, and below that, I’ve shared a bit about the story’s MC, Callie, and her friend Tucker…
Kittens. Several, wriggling around, making sad little mewing sounds. Their eyes are open, but they’re tiny. They look like Daisy Cat, gray and white, and they’re very cute. I’m unexpectedly grateful to Tucker for dragging me out here.
“I think this is where my aunt found her cat,” I tell him.
“You’d think their mother would’ve come running to the noise they’re making. She must have abandoned them.”
I stare at the kittens, thinking of the photograph in my pocket. I can’t help but wonder if whatever may have scared off their mother is the same entity that’s been scaring me in Stewart House.
“Cal? What should we do?” Tucker asks.
I pull my eyes from the kittens and look at him. “I don’t know… nothing?”
“We have to do something. We can’t leave them out here.”
“Because they’ll freeze. Or starve.” He gives me a teasing smile. “You don’t want dead kittens on your conscience, do you?”
Something about my expression must change—darken—because his smile vanishes.
Hopefully this excerpt shows how profoundly Callie is impacted by the mere mention of death, and a bit of the push-and-pull she’s going through as far as normalcy — she resisted Tucker’s initial invitation to go outside, yet she’s surprisingly happy that he managed to convince her. The mention of Tucker’s “teasing smile” speaks to his good-natured personality, as well as his comfort level with Callie, despite the fact that she tends to hold him at a distance.
Tell me: What’s one way you’ve revealed character in your own writing? (Oh, and if you give the Page 69 Test a try on your blog, let me know… I’d love to check it out!)