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Exercise #3: "Clutter"
Clutter can yell you a lot about character. What exactly is it? And where is it? What is it blocking / obscuring? Describe the clutter of one of the following characters:
  • a bereaved widow who, 20 years after her husband's death, cannot bring herself to go on a date
  • a doctoral student unable to complete his thesis
  • a yoga instructor who is addicted to e-mail
  • a chef who suffers from adult onset diabetes
I'm choosing the bereaved widow character. 1, 2, 3, GO!

Ethel Johnson was a 70-something widow, but she never let her age stop her. Skydiving, rappelling, mountain climbing, and many other activities dominated her everyday life. She was a thrill-seeker, someone who seems as if she feared nothing, not even death. When asked about her fears, she responded with a simple "nothing," but deep in the recesses of her heart, she knew it wasn't the truth.

Her house was generally well-kept, save one space. In the corner of her living room there was an over-sized, leather armchair and a small, cherry-colored end table, covered in dust, magazines, and various other items that looked like they had been sitting in the same place for upwards of 20 years. The truth is, they had been there for about that long. Ethel's husband, James, died 19 years, 2 months, and 8 days ago of a heart attack on his way to work. He was an accountant.

When he left for work that day, Ethel prodded him to clean up the area around his easy chair. One time out of many.

"James," she said, "Please pick up all of that junk on the chair. You know I can't touch it."

With a low grunt, James walked over to his chair and picked up one of the magazines on the floor nearby, placing it on the end table where an overwhelming stack of magazines were already sitting. He looked around the chair and, pleased with his progress, nodded his head.

"Look, honey," he said. "I have to go to work. I'll clean it up when I get home."

Rolling her eyes, Ethel smiled and said, "That's what you always say."

Ethel was never able to clean up for him.




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