A to Z 2016 · Fiction

V is for “Victimized”

This is a fun little character-inhabiting exercise, and I think I’ll try this from time to time, for all the people I see throughout the city of Chicago:

Here’s an idea for a five minute + writing exercise. It can be expanded infinitely, or that it can be picked up again whenever you have five minutes with nothing to do. I especially recommend it during meetings, when you are required to look attentive and take notes.

Who’s the last person who made you curious? Was it the words he said that didn’t fit the expression on his face? The clothes she wore that didn’t fit the occasion? The body’s secret language that contradicted the mouth’s politically correct utterances? For five minutes enter that person’s world and become him or her. Write a first-person monologue that explores how you’ve made yourself fit into the world.

Stop after five minutes. You may choose to return to this character later, or you may choose to enter another identity, and for five minutes, write in the voice of that person.

This exercise is about point of view: challenging yourself to not only step into others’ shoes but to become them, even if only for five minutes. eventually you will find doors opening to characters you never thought you could understand or write about.


Traveling on public transportation for about two hours every day makes it very easy to people-watch. There are some really kooky people out in the world…

I think the last person that really made me curious was a young woman. Very nicely dressed in business casual, smooth blond hair clipped back in a ponytail, fancy boots. What made her quirky was the fact that she was on her cell phone, earbuds in her ears, talking into the microphone on the cord — and despite the fact that we could hear her conversation (sounded like a relative; kept talking about “Dad”), she covered her mouth entirely every time she spoke and looked around to see who was watching.

So I began to think — what would make someone like act this way? Was it simple paranoia? Or had she been the victim of something that scared her? I was intrigued.




It’s not something I like to think about, the circumstances that make me frightened of everyone. I just can’t trust anybody anymore.

Eddie should have let me work from home; I’d feel so much better if I didn’t have to be in public so much. But to do that, I would have had to tell him all about it — and either he would think I was crazy, or he would want me to go to the police.

Police? What can they do? I’ve never been assaulted, I’ve just been terrorized. I think.

Hold it together, Lucy. Don’t try to convince yourself this isn’t real, like everyone else seems to think. It’s not your imagination. Someone has been watching.

I wish I could prove it, just so everyone would believe me. Mom, Dad, Jules, Peter. I’m not paranoid. Dr. Thatcher agrees with me… or at least he makes me believe that he believes me.

Someone is always looking. I look over my shoulder, and the person behind me shifts their head like they just looked away.

And I know someone is tracking me. Every day now, I check my pockets, the seams, every crevice of my bag just in case I find some tiny bug, some device proving someone is watching or listening. But every day, it’s just been lint.

Can a bug look like lint? Oh god, that’s — oh, god.




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