Character descriptions

Players in the drama of boy’s stories are more memorable by the impact they make than their hair color or body shape or clothes all of that is simple and two dimensional as coloring book outlines. What matters is the emotional freight a character carries, how they come across to my protagonists, as mean, angry, friendly, helpful. A single trait that embodies that dominant feeling is the key to describing the person. Action and dialogue add to it.


He reached toward the rim but couldn’t see the sky. An eighth grader hung over him like a tree with out-stretched branches. One of the limbs crashed down on the ball, on him…The eighth grader leaned over Zan, his face as dark as the shadow he cast with his blown-out Afro. “Don’t bring that stuff in here. This is my court.”

Can Do, Zan


As soon as Pete left, Zach crossed the road, wiggled into the dumpster and began tossing out pieces of plywood and useable scraps of lumber.

“Hey, what’re you doin’ in there?” a deep voice boomed.

Oh-oh. Now I’m in trouble, Zach thought. He peeked over the edge of the dumpster. A burly man walked toward him rocking from side to side like a stump-legged pirate. The man pulled a pack of Camels from the chest pocket of his faded purple T-shirt. He popped out a cigarette. Lit it.

“I asked you what you think you’re doing taking stuff off private property.”

Zach found his voice. “Just getting a few scraps. And I figured all this was going to the dump anyway so it wasn’t really stealing and I need the wood to make a box for all the things I found across the street at the Drake farm and I’m going to make a movie about all those things and my dad and the other Civil War reenactors are restoring the old house…”

The man scowled.

This isn’t working, Zach realized.

“This is private property,” the man growled. “I’m the construction manager for these buildings and you got no business trespassing here.”

Zach thought fast. The man reminded him of his dad’s carpenter buddies. He knew how much they liked to talk about their tools. “You don’t happen to have a saw around here, do you? A good one, like a Makita?”

“What’s that got to with it, kid?”

Zach knew he had to keep pushing. “Because the only kind we have at home is a handyman Ryobi. No guts. And I’m going to need a good saw to trim up these scraps.”

The manager squinted at Zach but half-smiled at the same time. “You got a lot of nerve kid. You ain’t borrowing no saw from me, if that’s what you’re getting at.” He flicked his cigarette and ground it slowly under his steel toed work boots, the shiny metal poking through where the leather was worn off. When he looked up, his face was dead serious. “If that’s all the lumber you need, take it and go. But don’t let me catch you sniffing around here again. You could hurt yourself.”

Tales From the Drake House Outhouse