The Writing Gym: Open Mike Night

Last night I went to a local coffee shop’s open mike night on a complete whim. I expected to hear mumbling music, bad poetry, and caffeine induced performance art. Yes, such amateur excitement did deliver, but what I didn’t expect was for the evening to turn into a writing exercise. One after one, crazy characters kept walking through the door of the coffee house and I couldn’t help myself from jotting down a line or two about each eccentric person I saw. Before I knew it I was writing about half the people in the room.

Thinking about character introductions and making your characters pop off the page, this struck me as a great exercise in painting a picture in only a few sentences. So I invite you all to go to your local open mike nights (or just hang out at a coffee shop) and write a line or two about all the amazing and individual people you see.

The Unique and Bizarre Attendees of Jones Coffee Roaster’s Open Mike Night:

  • A sixty-year-old Salvador Dali knockoff in his brown suit and black beret, stands to the side with harmonica and guitar ready. He’s been waiting all day for his five minutes of open mike madness. Later, when the crowds have dispersed I see him rooting through the flowerpots. He digs out a succulent and tucks it in his pocket, dirt, roots, and all.
  • A bevy of twenty-something beauties pout and gossip over double soy non-fat dinner drivel.
  • Fifteen-year-old Snow White look-a-like left the dwarfs at home and brought her entourage.
  • Hurley and Jack Black’s love child sits on a brown suitcase wearing sneakers without socks and rocking a narwhal t-shirt.
  • Leopard-print head-banded brunette clutches her designer bag and wonders why her friends brought her here. Her cell phone is perched in hand, ready to dial M for Mayday.
  • A beat-box rappin’ hipster wears a mini velvet fedora and a three inch tiny tie.
  • At the mike is a cute blond with a flower barrette, sings like a sweet country Fiona Apple.
  • Stylin’ New York Nancy stirs her drink, she’s super cool and put together with her silver hoops and sideways smile.
  • At the counter is tweaker chick and her road rage boyfriend.
  • Navy blue suspenders hold up the pants of an old Chinese guru, hiding out under matching blue beanie.
  • The coffee whisperer checks the grinder and stands watch, face stern as he guards the beans.
  • Pompom tassels bounce on the purse of the type of woman who keeps your local yarn store in business.
  • Fifty-year-old mannish-Marilyn in stripped carpenter chords struts past, her hot pink bra strap peeks out from under her scalloped tee.
  • Clean cut college freshman does a double take as plane Jane transforms into a guitar goddess.
  • Long haired fisherman type surprises the crowd with a classical creation on a bowed psaltery, an odd stringed instrument that he quickly informs us all is part of the piano family.
  • A blue jelly-bean of a man rocks out on his bongos and smiles happily behind horn rimmed glasses.
  • In short shorts and white Keds, the nineteen year old stringy blond in front of me bats her eyelashes at the friend she doesn’t realize is gay.

It was quite a night! Feel free to share some of your fun character descriptions in the comments! Happy writing.

This rockin' cup chandelier was at Jones'.

3 thoughts on “The Writing Gym: Open Mike Night

  1. I enjoyed this post – and good idea too.
    Which were you? The leopard-print head-banded brunette? (I’m extrapolating from the brunette part.)

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