MAY I tell you something about the Page 69 Test?

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.”

“Why not?”

“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!)

26 responses to “MAY I tell you something about the Page 69 Test?

  1. Thanks for sharing, Katy! and very cool link/idea! I really like that you can indeed tell a lot from the characters from one excerpt – I see the comfort level you mention. He’s all about teasing her while she seems so much more cautious than him :D I’ll have to try this out soon! :D

  2. I freaking love that excerpt. Please just post your writing snippets every day. I would love happily. :D

  3. I love this idea! It’s definitely a good test to see if what we’re getting across and what we think we’re getting across are really the same. :)

  4. Oh! I love this idea, Katy! Thank you so much for sharing. I love even more getting to see an excerpt from your MS! I’m definitely intrigued, and I can’t wait to learn more about Callie. Great post :)

  5. Very cool! I like this idea and I like your excerpt. If/when I ever make it to page 69, I’ll have to try it!

  6. What a great idea and a perfect way to see if your writing is really getting your character(s) across – I’m definitely going to have to try this out!
    And thanks for the excerpt…maybe you should post page 70, so we can see what Callie decides to do? :)

  7. Soooo – I love that you keep giving me writing prompts. I’ll be using this next Monday, thank you very much. Also, I LOVE this idea, and I am still insanely jealous that you got to see all three of those fabulous authors, but I’ll get over it. :)
    Oh, and I love, love, love the excerpt! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love this excerpt! The piece has such a great voice. I’m in the middle of a rewrite of my WIP. I’ll have to export from Scrivener to see where 69 falls. I’ll let you know if I participate. :)

  9. The fact that Tucker wants to make sure the kittens don’t die makes me love him already. <3

    I… can't think of one specific thing that I do to reveal character while writing. I think I try to REALLY know my characters before I'm heavy into the draft, so they usually show themselves through their actions, yanno? Sometimes they surprise me though :)

    • I totally get that, Sara. I don’t consciously think about revealing character until later revisions, and I often find that I’ve done it without really trying. Characters, I think, are one of strengths as a writer. Plotting, however… ;)

      Oh, and Tucker is sort of adorable, if I do say so myself. He’s one of my favorite boys! <3

  10. Oh–and I meant to say, that page 69 test is really cool! (When, obviously, I stop giggling over the number…)

  11. What an awesome excerpt! And I LOVE this exercise. It reminds me that we should see traces of our characters on every page. I’m trying this as soon as I finish my next WIP. :)

  12. The one bad thing about drafting in Scrivener is that I have NO IDEA where/what page 69 is. But when I move it over to Word I will have to fo this. So fun.

    And thanks for sharing! I really love your writing, Katy!

  13. Pingback: 2012 in Review… | Katy Upperman

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