31 DaysDay 6: SILENT PARTNER {the prompt follows at the end of this post}


The Circle

They were arranged in a circle, which wasn’t really surprising, Curtis thought. Mr. Harris wasn’t exactly the most creative of their AP teachers, which was surprising since he was the Writing teacher. Curtis settled into a spot and pulled out his materials: notebook, a pencil, a pen, his story and the required number of copies and an ancient stone he’d found in Guatemala on one of the black sand beaches. He liked to tuck in his jean’s pocket on workshopping days.

Mr. Harris sat at the top of the circle, at the 12 o’clock position. Curtis had chosen the 11 o’clock position because he knew Mr. Harris being Mr. Harris, he’d start with the student at the 1 o’clock position. That meant that the chances of Curtis having to listen to Mr. Harris read his story aloud and then listen to his fellow students explain all of the ways they didn’t understand it. Unfortunately, Curtis soon realized, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

“So, it’s come to my attention that I need to shake things up a bit,” Mr. Harris announced right after the bell. He looked at Curtis. “Which means, Curtis, we’re going to start with you this morning.”

Curtis stared at him for a long moment.

“Copies?” Mr. Harris asked.

Without speaking and without any outward emotion Curtis handed over the copies of his story.

“Let’s dive in, shall we?” Mr. Harris said and proceeded to read all 15 pages in an extreme monotone that matched none of the dialog or irony. Curtis pulled out the ancient Guatemalan stone and gripped it tightly in his left hand as he stared blankly at the circle of his peers. To him, they seemed like a group of circling vultures, ready to tear into the torn flesh of a recent bit of carrion.

“Okay,” Mr. Harris said after finishing the last line, “Take five minutes to jot any additional comments and then we’ll hear from … we’ll hear from Alice.”

Alice sat in the 4 o’clock position and Curtis couldn’t figure out what kind of tack Mr. Harris was taking. He turned the Guatemalan stone over and over in his fingers, focusing on the feel of it, the smooth curves and the sharp edges.

“Alice, your thoughts?”

“Okay. Well, the pacing is stilted and the characters are two dimensional,” Alice began.

“Let’s start with the positives,” Mr. Harris interrupted. He winked at Curtis.

Alice looked at Mr. Harris blankly. “Those are the positives,” she said.

Mr. Harris cleared his throat. “Okay, well, let’s move on for the moment. Dale. Your two cents?”

Dale shrugged. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Makes no sense to me.”

The room was silent for a few moments. “And…” Mr. Harris prompted.

“And, that’s about it,” Dale said.

“I’ll go,” Marilyn said.”

“Okay, Marilyn, let’s hear your thoughts,” Mr. Harris said, his voice sounding a little more strained. Curtis looked down at the pages in his hand without really seeing them and noticed that even though it seemed like three hours had gone by, they were only 12 minutes into the 53-minute class. Curtis cleared his throat and scanned the faces around the circle. Most of them avoided making eye contact with him.

“There is just so much here,” she said. “There are layers to the characters that are incredible. And the plot twists are thrilling.” Marilyn smiled at Mr. Harris. “More?” she asked.

“The floor is yours.”

Curtis loosened his grip on the stone and took a deep breath, his eyes on Mr. Harris as Marilyn spoke.

“The irony is so rich, you know? The relationship between the protagonist and his colleagues; if it weren’t so oppressive, it would be funny. He’s so misunderstood,” Marilyn concluded. She locked eyes with Curtis.

“Hey, Curt!” Dale exclaimed, “You’ve got a fan. One whole fan!” Most of the circle laughed even if they didn’t look at him. Marilyn shook her head and Mr. Harris held up his hands.

“Okay, folks, let’s keep this professional, remember,” Mr. Harris said.

But Curtis knew it was too late for that. Things were heading the way they always did in Mr. Harris’ workshops. At least for Curtis.

“Drivel, I say,” shouted Wayne.

“Not just drivel,” Virginia said, “Pure junk!”

The laughter grew louder.

“Not junk, Ginny,” Mark said. “Pure crap!”

The din of laughter broke free of what little control Mr. Harris had been able to maintain to this point.

“Heathens,” Marilyn said into the din.

“Neanderthals,” Curtis muttered as he stood up and made his way around the circle taking up the copies Mr. Harris had passed out only 13 minutes before.

When he came to Marilyn, she looked at him, shook her head and held tightly to her copy. “They’re simpletons,” she said. “They wouldn’t know genius if it bit them on the…”

“Moving on,” Mr. Harris announced, standing and holding his hands in the air to quiet the chaos.

Curtis took his seat and tucked the ancient Guatemalan stone back in his pocket and exhaled a deep breath.


{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I have created a playlist on Spotify that allows me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing.}

Writing Prompt: SILENT PARTNER – contemplate for a while, then slowly write down a conversation between several people in which one person says very little or nothing – Make this silent partner a crucial part of the situation, and don’t ignore this character just because he is not speaking. Pay attention to all of your characters. {Exercise 59 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley {note, this is an affiliate link}


2 thoughts on “The Circle

  1. I can completely relate to this one. I’ve taken several creative writing classes before, and there’s always this feeling of dread whenever it’s workshop day. I tend to be reluctant to share anything I write since I’m such a perfectionist and my own worst critic. The comments from the others in the class in this are certainly not examples of good, constructive criticism, hah!

    And speaking of writing, I know I’ve missed a few days of prompts, but I’m going to try to jump back in with today’s.

    1. Good to hear from you, Meagan!

      This is by far my least favorite post in the six days of writing prompt pieces. It was more challenging than I anticipated; and, well, these characters are high school kids. Thus the comments 😉

      Hope to read something new from you soon.

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