Inspired Writer's Workshop Assignment

This week's assignment was to create a character as far out there as possible. As kooky and strange as can be. Our prompt was an excerpt called "XO" (Kisses and Hugs) from Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Good Squad. Jennifer Egan happens to be a former student of the Writer's Studio and a Pulitzer Prize winner. This is very encouraging.

The excerpt from Egan's book was fun and zany. It was extremely inspiring. I went home and created a character named James, as you will meet below. I knew exactly who he was and what would happen to him. I outlined the majority of a novel. For the workshop assignment, I wrote a pivotal scene in that novel. I received wonderful, helpful feedback from my classmates and teacher. Unfortunately, I haven't done any editing on this piece yet. But I know precisely what needs to be done, and where it will go. Please enjoy it in this form, and when it is edited, I will be happy to share it again. And always, feedback is always welcome.

            I sat at my computer, focused on the latest encryption that I was building. I was in the zone, and my fingers flew over the keyboard. Strangely, though, I could feel my anger rising. I felt my eye twitch. My anger built at an exponential rate. I tried to stuff it back down. But instead my eye twitched again. Apparently, I was angry about something, and it wasn’t going to quit. I took off my headphones and looked up.

            I noticed all my alarm clocks were going off. I have five. Each programed at certain intervals. The orange one goes off every four hours. For food. Orange because pizza is red and yellow. At an alternating four hour interval, a yellow one. For the bathroom. A black one goes off if I’ve been awake for more than 16 hours. Black because I once blacked out after four days of programming. I hit my head. Lost a fair amount of blood. The scar is pretty cool.

A blue one goes off once a day to remind me to go outside. And a pink one that also goes off every 24 hours. My mother insists I talk to her every day. To let her know I’m alive. Once I created a program to text her everyday saying, ‘I’m alive,’ but she caught on. My mom was sending responses, but only getting the same one back. Another time my mom called the cops because I hadn’t called her in 8 days and she thought I died. Why would she think that? I don’t know. Now she insists on hearing my voice.

            It wasn’t my alarms making me angry. I knew because my eye continued to twitch. Also because checking the alarms, noting the logbook, and resetting them did not alleviate my anger. Nor was it my headache, full bladder, or empty stomach. I’m used to that.

            “James!” I heard a voice shout. My eye twitched. Ah, so that must be it. Someone was here, in my space, and that made me angry.

            By the way, I just realized how rude I’ve been. I haven’t even told you my name. I’m James. Not Jimmy, or Jimbo, or Jim, or Jamsie, and especially never Jamsie-bug. My online handle, for those of you who may travel in those circles, is Jammer. Pleased to meet you.

            I turned around in my swivel chair. I was met with the sight of my sister Alicia attempting, and failing to make her way across the room. I don’t know why. Everything is in exact piles with a clear path. All she had to do was turn left at F4, walk forward two paces, turn left again at D4, walk forward four paces, turn right, step forward one pace, turn right again, and then walk straight across the room to my desk where I sat. It was clear as day.

            “Thank God, James! I have been shouting at you for twenty minutes!” she glared at me when I met her eyes. My eye twitched.

            “Left,” I told her. “What?” she responded. “Turn left.” “Ugh! I thought you were going to clean this stuff up!” “I did,” I said, stating the obvious. She must be cognitively impaired. “You must be cognitively impaired,” I told her. It appeared this was the wrong thing to say. She grabbed the nearest object, a book, and hurtled it at my head. Then attempted to step over a pile of magazines, and sent them scattering. My eye twitched.

            “I give up. I may not have a 160 IQ,” “170,” I interrupted her. “What?” she asked. “Einstein’s IQ was 160. Mine is 170,” I corrected her. “Listen,” she snapped. “I know you don’t want me here. I don’t want to be here. Mom sent me to check. It’s been four days.”

            Ah, so that explained her presence. As Alicia spoke, I checked my logbook. She was correct. The last entry for human contact was from four days ago. Alicia continued speaking despite my turned back, “Also the cops want to talk to you. Melinda has gone missing.” My heart stopped, my veins froze, and my stomach dropped out. Melinda was missing.

            I used to keep tabs on her. But evidently that is stalking, and a restraining order was issued. This would never have happened if they let me keep tabs on her. I leapt out of my chair, which left it spinning in crazy circles, and sped through the clear path to the door. On the way, I grabbed my sister and threw her over my shoulder, ignoring her screams and pounding my back. I burst out the door, not sure exactly where I was going, but certain that I was the only one who could save Melinda.

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