Character development exercise: At the airport

Last call

I love young adult books and dream of being a published YA novelist, so I’m currently taking an online YA fiction writing class. I’m planning a short story and hoping that I find the time/ability/stamina to turn it into a novella. I’ve been throwing around ideas in my head — futuristic sci-fi time-travel story? Historical novel about traveling to the New World? Fantasy about finding a door to an alternate universe? I’m good at coming up with ideas but not very good at following through and doing the work.

So I’m using the Daily Post Challenge to get started fleshing out my protagonist. The first part of the assignment is to choose 5 or more character traits. Here we go:

1) Human

2) Age 16

3) Female

4) Character flaw: Lack of self-confidence. (It’s of the utmost important for your protagonist to have a character flaw, preferably one that is somewhat opposite the theme of your work, thus sayeth my creative writing instructor).

5) She is 5′ 7,” wavy dark brown hair down to her mid-back, light green eyes. Medium-build. She is mixed-race, Caucasian with some Native American blood, giving her the appearance of having a light tan. She has a long scar on the top of her left foot from a childhood injury. She has pierced ears.

6) Her greatest fear is drowning. She knows how to swim but hasn’t been in the water for years since seeing a friend drown.

7) Her name is Kara.

Now to write a scene about Kara:

Kara walked out of the terminal at Portland International Airport and scanned the faces, looking for her mother. She wasn’t there. Kara grabbed her phone out of her pocket — no missed call. Her flight was more than 20 minutes late — her always-punctual mom should’ve been there by now. She scanned the crowd again, pulling her long hair back into her signature ponytail. She dialed her mom’s number. No answer. Maybe she was stuck in traffic? No — it was 9:30 at night.

She watched as other travelers reunited with family members. In front of her a redheaded girl a few years older than Kara wrapped her arms around a tall guy wearing an Oregon Ducks hoodie. “I missed you soooo much!” she gushed before giving him a long, passionate kiss. The guy noticed Kara staring at them and winked. She turned away, feeling her cheeks flush with embarrassment. He was really cute, too. Why did she have to be so awkward? She couldn’t imagine anyone ever kissing her like that. She just wanted to get home, shower, sleep and forget all about her summer visit with her dad and his new family. But where was her mom?



photo credit: <a href=””>Franck Vervial</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;


  1. Alice said:

    Where indeed? Perhaps her mom had been waylaid by a drunken bear named Wally Dog. Or, she could have forgotten all about her rendezvous with Kara due to solar flares that set off an epileptic episode, her first ever. Maybe, too, her morning trip to the dentist had involved a dose of nitrous oxide, and she had spent the day watching comedies on Netflix and had laughed herself so silly that she had fallen asleep from exhaustion.

    • ursulamarie said:

      All of these scenarios seem very possible.

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