This task was to create a character using a method you don't normally use. (The four methods for creating characters are imaginary, autobiographical, biographical, and mixed.) I usually create my characters from my imagination, but this one is biographical---based on a partially overheard conversation in a restaurant last week when I was at a conference.
My inclination was to write in first person, which would be a total departure from my usual method, but the instructions were to write 300-500 word character sketch in third person. So that's what I did.
Here's my character sketch. If this becomes the start of a novel, I'll call it Starting Over.
Charlotte Morris started life all over again when she was forty-seven years old.
The events leading to her rebirth were unexpected. She was relatively happily married, gainfully employed as a computer programmer, successful and respected. But after a seriously bad day at work, she came home and found her husband, an attorney, packing a suitcase. A large suitcase.
“Unexpected trip?” she asked.
“No. I’m leaving you, Charlotte.”
“Leaving me?” Surely he couldn’t mean…
“Yes. I’m leaving you and filing for divorce.”
Her knees gave out, and she sank onto the bed, staring at him. They’d made love just the night before—for the first time in a very long time. “But…why?”
“Because I’ve fallen in love with someone else. Someone who makes me happy.”
“I thought we were happy, Jack.”
“For a long time we were. And I haven’t been unhappy, Charlotte. But I want…something more.”
“You want to marry your mistress.” It was a shot in the dark—she wasn’t absolutely certain he had a mistress, but in the past year or so she’d begun to suspect he did. There had been a few too many “business dinners,” although no more overnight trips than usual.
“Yes and no. I do plan to marry the woman I’ve fallen in love with, but technically, she isn’t my mistress.”
She didn’t care about technicalities and legal mumbo-jumbo. All she could think of was the previous night. “You sorry bastard! If you don’t love me anymore, what was last night? A farewell fuck?” She’d never said that word in her life, but nothing else fit.
To his credit, he seemed chagrined. “Of course not. I do care for you, Charlotte—”
“You have a strange way of showing it.” Anger suddenly deserted her. Tears quickly followed in its wake, but she was determined not to cry in front of him. “You also don’t have grounds for divorce.”
“Grounds haven’t been required for…for years.“ Jack was a corporate defense attorney, not a divorce attorney. “Now divorce is just a mutual decision to end a marriage.”
She could have pointed out that they hadn’t decided anything—he had—but she had no desire to be married to a man who didn’t want to be married to her.
“You can have the house, and I’ll be generous with the alimony. You’ll need an attorney to handle the divorce. Jim Shallcross, Charlie Becker, and Mo Solomon are all good. So are Maggie Crutcher and Liz Kielewski.”
She didn’t say anything—couldn’t say anything—and he resumed packing. Five minutes later, he closed his suitcase. “I’ll arrange to have the rest of my things moved later this week. Get a good attorney to handle the divorce for you.” He paused long enough to kiss the top of her head on his way out. “I’m sorry, Charlotte.”
And that marked the end of their marriage. Twenty-two years together, and the sorry bastard had ended it with five minutes of conversation and an apology.