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Fictional Characters


After you read a good novel, do you ever wonder what happens to a character in that future beyond the plot? When I was teaching high school, I sometimes asked students to continue a novel we had read beyond the last chapter.

What happens when your favorite children’s book character grows up and moves out?  An article written for the UnReal Estate series appearing on Apartment Therapy’s website imagines what the studio apartments of characters like Ramona Quimby and Nancy Drew would look like if they designed their homes as adults. Poets & Writers magazine took inspiration from this idea and suggested the poetry prompt of envisioning a favorite book character’s home years after the events depicted in the story.

In the article, is a minimalist, not "trend-forward" but practical without having an apartment that seems outdated. They give her a classic New York City-style loft, with big windows, vaulted ceilings, exposed brick, Scandinavian-inspired furniture and her desk at center stage in her living quarters.

As a model poem, I chose "Fictional Characters" by Danusha Laméris (from The Moons of August, Autumn House Press, 2014) which goes beyond placing characters at home. Her poem begins:

Do they ever want to escape?
Climb out of the white pages
and enter our world?

Holden Caulfield slipping in the movie theater
to catch the two o'clock
Anna Karenina sitting in a diner,
reading the paper as the waitress
serves up a cheeseburger.

The poem also suggests a turn inward because "Wouldn't you, if you could? / Step out of your own story,/ to lean against a doorway / of the Five & Dime, sipping your coffee,/ your life, somewhere far behind you..."

For our August writing prompt, we also broaden the original prompt to a poem that describes a fictional character beyond the time of the story in any way - in their home, office, workplace, or doing something out in their world. It would be best if you hold to the story's timeline. So, Jay Gatsby is dead at the novel's end and not an option, and Jean Louise "Scout" Finch is 6 in 1933 and would be 60 in 1987 and 92 in you set her in 2019. Use period details, so homes and offices should include the furniture and things of that time and the poem's "plot" should reflect upon how your understanding of the character’s personality and narrative arc.

Deadline for submissions: August 31, 2019

Check our archive of 20 years of prompts and poems, and our blog for much more. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


An accident
What sort of accident?

How did she slip?
How could she have done?

Why did God let this happen?
Who is the God that let this happen?
Here, and then gone

That lovely sweet fragrance
That smells of love
A gentle hand strokes my hair
Soft lips brush my forehead
You whisper good night into my ear

Anger wakes me from my nightmare
Because you are no longer here
you will never be here
Ever again

I hate you for leaving me
You could at least
Have asked for my permission

Doryn Herbst


Isabel before the mirror
by the front door.
Brushes her hair again.
And again.
A hundred times.
Still can’t get it right.
The taxi beeps.
She rushes out.
Take me to the Dewdrop Inn.
Like yesterday
And the day before.
And the day before that.
Not to the finest salons in Dallas.
No, to the sleazy tavern that is now
her second home.
Where no one knows her.
No society babes here!
No one to know.
No one to report to hubby.

Screw Larry.
Screw him and
his sad, gorgeous eyes.
Eyes that could never see
the beauty that stood before him.
And the life with her
that was his destiny.

Another vodka and tonic
at the Dewdrop
for the teetotaler.
And any cowpoke
who approaches
is cut down
by Isabel’s eyes.

Screw Larry.
Wherever the hell he is.

She looks down
at the bottom of the glass.
Sophie is there, as usual.
Hell, Sophie.
Was it my fault you were so
So trusting?
So stupid to think
you could have a life
with the man made for me?
But Sophie just stares
up at Isabel.
Who needs another drink
And stares down at Sophie.
And cries. And whimpers,
“it wasn’t my fault”,
“it was all that stupid, stupid Larry.”
And she cries.
“Forgive me, Sophie.”
But Sophie’s eyes
And stare.
Through the vodka.
As if
from the bottom of the River Seine.

R. Bremner

If you really want to hear about me,
like where I was born, and my childhood
and you're not really just interested in my brother
and all that Catcher in the Rye kind of crap,well,
I don’t feel like going into it.
My parents were pretty pissed when that book came out.
I was treated nicely, though not realistically.
I don't think I was that noble, and I don't think the world is that phony.
Then again, I was a child and pretty innocent.
Holden didn't want to grow up, which made me angry with him.
He is (or was) 6 years older than me which is a lot when you're a kid
but he was no adult and pretty damned phony himself.
There are no children romping through a field of rye
and no one is catching anyone
No one caught my brother.
He was a sad, insecure young man who never found love
or the support he needed.
I tried.
I failed.

I walked past the museum today and would have gone to the carousel
but I decided instead to light two candles for my brothers
on the tiny altar at my window with Buddha looking west
through the park and beyond all the way to where they are in California.
My now 78 year-old hands shook as I lit the candles
but the flames held and will flicker and burn out tonight
when we are all sleeping.

Pamela Milne


“My childhood? You want me to talk about my childhood?

“Well, I must be 53 now, though I don’t
know how old I was when I first met Chuck
and the gang. It doesn’t matter. I’m still
in papers every day, saying the same
stupid things, that little kid trailing behind
me calling me ‘sir.’ God, you’d think that
wisdom came with age, but no, not for me.
I’m still the D- girl with the ugly face,
the one Chuck never looked at, his eyes
only for the little red-haired girl. Damn her!
I once told Linus, “no one will ever
love me that way.” I was right. I’m still crying
after all these years, still with a big nose,
split ends with split ends, still funny looking,
still desperately trying to fit in.

“One time Chuck told me that sleeping in back
of a car coming home from somewhere warm
with your parents taking care of everything
was security, but that it doesn’t last.
You grow up and never get to sleep
in the back seat again. We both cried that time.
Life’s so sad. You’re born pretty or you’re born
ugly; you’re born smart or you’re born stupid,
and your life’s over before you even
get started. Why? Oh Why? And the smart and
beautiful people never look at you.

“So here I am, living in a small flat,
drawing residuals, working a gig
now and then, still alone. I watch old TV
shows, pet my cats, and feed the pigeons in
the park. Oh, it’s not a bad life, not really.
I mean, it could have been much worse, right?
Born ugly and dumb, what else could I expect?
I don’t even know what happened to Chuck,
probably retired from playing baseball.
That was all he ever really loved, that
and the little red-haired girl. Damn her!”

Robert Miller


The pig followed the bear
The bear meandered, sauntered
Content in his pausing
Here and there
The pig calling to the bear
A scarf trailing from his neck
Somewhere in the distance a tiger
Spinning off kilter
Ungracefully, unabashedly energetic
The bear, unseen, came upon a jogger
Or rather the jogger came upon the bear
The bear toppled; the jogger continued on
“Oh, bother” muttered the bear unfazed
“Oh, my that was ruh-ruh-rather rude,” said the pig
“Are you all right Pooh?”

“I am kind of hungry” the bear replied
“Puh-puh-perhaps we should turn buh-buh-back,” the pig stammered
“I’m sure there must be honey around here somewhere”
The bear got up and brushed himself off
“There is a rumbly in my tumbly; I smell honey”
The bear followed his nose
Once again, the little pig followed

The bear came to a stop
“Um excuse me sir but may I partake of some of that delicious honey?”
“A talking bear! Well, I’ll be- I thought I’d seen it all”
“No honey here bear but I do have some honey roasted peanuts”
“I have a feeling that a stuffed bear has no pockets nor any money and obviously not any pants”

“Oh, I’m not stuffed, I’m quite hungry in fact”
The vendor laughed, handed down a bag of warm fragrant nuts
The bear dug right in
Soon the little brown bag was attached to the bear’s snout
“Uh, Piglet, some help please”
“Oh, muh-muh-my” the pig jumped up into the air
and swatted the bag from the bear’s nose
“Why thank you Piglet”

The music was loud but melodious
The bear followed his ears
The pig followed the bear
Children ran ahead
Hopping onto a large circular platform
Beautifully colored horses surrounded them
They moved up and down
“They don’t seem hostile” observed the bear
Both clambered up upon a lower horse
Round and round they went
“What if this horse falls down or runs off into the woods”
“There, there little Piglet- What if it doesn’t?”
The pig smiled

Afterwards, they sat on a nearby bench
The pig sat very close
The bear – content- patting his round belly - pondered
“All these trees and not a lick of honey in any of them; this is nothing like the hundred acre wood “
Passing before them: children and grownups, skates, bikes, strollers, skateboards, chairs with wheels
People talking, laughing, walking, running, holding hands
Piglet reached for the bear’s paw
The bear smiled

Luh-luh-look at all these puh-puh-people, said the pig nudging even closer to the bear
“Hmm, oh yes, the people; I didn’t notice; I’m sorry Piglet I was rather distracted”
“And by wuh-wuh-what were you distracted may I ask?”
“The sky Piglet, the great big sky – isn’t it a lovely blue ?”
“I didn’t notice; I was looking at the grass; it’s a lovely shade of green but it makes me a bit s-s-sad; I think I’d like to go home now”
“Of course Piglet but first we’ll have to find Christopher Robin; it appears he’s lost. “
“Puh-puh-perhaps Pooh, it is we who are lost”
“Oh bother, perhaps you’re right”
A whirl of orange whizzed by, stopped and turned
“Hey buddy boys! Christopher Robin’s been looking for you. Hop onto this thingamajig and let’s roll!”
“Tigger! Wuh-wuh-what is that?” asked the pig
"It’s called a Seg-a-way – it’s not as much fun as bouncing but even I’m not bouncy enough for the three of us!”
And so the bear, the pig and the tiger “Seg-a wayed” off

The young boy saw them from a distance and smiled
“Oh Pooh, and Piglet and Tigger too- here you are. I didn’t see you wandering off"
“I suppose I was too busy looking up at the sky – did you notice what a beautiful blue it is?”
Pooh laughed, the boy reached down and wiped the bear’s still sticky nose
“I see you found yourself some honey - silly old bear, let’s go home”
And they did - All under a beautiful blue sky

Terri J. Guttilla


The normal life in a fantasy world
Not for the storm which had hurled
When there is so much more than that
A story coming together with each new words
Characters are like the flying birds
They go fly high unknown yet
Come back to the place they know best

Be it the Harry Potter or Draco
Both of them know a life full of magic
And heroes want to remain a hero
On the contrary, villains try to be better
And try fighting themselves in each weather
Heroes are what created in every aspect
Life is like a circle where we don't know the radius
No one knows how long but
What start comes to an end at a point
From where everything had started

The world beyond the known
A world beyond the mystery of detectives
Or the world of magic is a parallel world
Seemingly every aspect interesting and maybe true
But there will never be an end to good and bad
Imagine a world beyond the words unspoken
A mind of a creative reader which is unique
And different from the world that exists
To step out and live a life unknown to others
A fantasy world in normal life is what they live.

Vaishnavi Gupta


As Black Mamba, and a member of the DIVAS
You were already one of the deadliest women in the world.
After your “roaring rampage of revenge”
For the massacre at Two Pines,
With that Hanzo masterpiece in your hand
And the five-point palm exploding heart technique
At your very fingertips
You were easily THE deadliest woman in the world.

And a mom.

Did you have a plan
As you drove the convertible north out of Mexico
With little B.B. safely strapped in beside you?
There was no going back.
Arlene was as dead as the rest of the DIVAS.
The record store was no more.
And while, in these enlightened times,
Women don’t always abandon their careers
When the first child arrives,
For a paid assassin,
The work-life balance is a little more precarious
And worthy of deeper consideration.

Look at you both now!
B.B. is ten already
And still loves to fall asleep next to you
Watching ’Shogun Assassin’.
You’ve not married -
I can see how the rehearsal in El Paso
May have put a dampener on any such thoughts.

And your business! Out in the deep woods
Near a little town you just think of as F.
A blacksmith at her forge!
Many would have had ideas;
Few would have seen Vulcan in your stars!

Three, maybe four days a week, you work in ’the shop’,
Safely boots - barefoot blacksmiths are even rarer than you, Beatrix!
Thick canvas pants, leather apron, leather gauntlets,
Safety glasses, blond hair tied back,
Face and shoulders glistening with sweat
And smeared with the soot of ancient industry,
Plunging cold, raw steel into the violently hot gas forge,
Beating it with hammer-on-anvil, under power hammers,
And dipping hot metal into a tin bucket of cold water
To temper, harden and cool.

That is a massive over-simplification.
From your humble workshop
Your Damascus steel is in high demand
All over the world.
Do I sense the occult side of Hattori’s art
Mixed with a touch of Eagle Claw magic?
Or did you single-handedly re-imagine
A long-lost desert secret that’s not seen the light of day
Since the waters of the Nile
Flowed across the Plain of Giza,
Washing the paws of the Sphinx in its holy waters?

Following your mentors’ lead
You refuse to make instruments of death.
You imagine artifacts into manifestation,
Clean edges, sensuous curves,
Unexpected portals and illusory sightlines.
Hints, sometimes, of a toned forearm,
A cobra’s head,
A sushi roll, a fish head,
A finely turned ankle, but mostly,
Shaped steel, forged in flames and which,
Like the flames themselves,
Shape-shift the more one gazes upon them.

You don’t do it for the money, Beatrix.
Hell, you left Elle’s million behind in Budd’s trailer
Together with his priceless Hattori Hanzo!
No, you do it for the love of doing it,
And B.B. is learning to do the same,
Whether she’s swimming in the lake,
Wrestling with a science project,
Or practicing her piano.
Or her tae kwon do.

Damon Leigh


That geezer over there?
A sorry case for sure
Motor vehicle accident
Out by the lake
All smashed up
His small car, a total wreck
Got whacked in the head
Thinks he's a mouse
No. Really. That's what he says.
Come to think of it
He does look pretty gray
Got quite a set of whiskers, too
And, being so small,
Must have been teased
Quite a bit
When he was little
O.M.G., did I say "little?"
Claims that's his name
Bad luck for sure
Might as well have named him Sue
What's that ...?
What's was he doing out there?
Bird watching, I guess
Had a Field Guide and Glasses
Babbled something about
Looking for one very special bird
Sounded like one of them
Life List sort of things
Now he spends his days
Glued to that TV
Getting more depressed
By the hour
Violence and hate
Everywhere you turn
Says, where he comes from
People are more tolerant
Having feathers ... or a tail
Don't necessarily put folk off
Though he admits to being afraid
Of dogs ... and suspicious of cats
Not very consistent, if you ask me
But, then again, most people aren't

Frank Kelly