This sketch was written for the fiction writing course I am currently taking through FutureLearn. For this exercise, you had to write a character sketch (300 – 500 words) using one or more methods of creating characters, and show elements like appearance, feelings, current circumstances, occupation, voice, attitudes, hopes and fears.

Character Sketch – “Telling Half a Truth”

Markus looked at himself in the mirror for a moment, taking in the gaunt features before starting to apply a thin layer of makeup. Through the years he had learned well how to mask the signs of what little sleep he managed to get. He sighed as he put the makeup back in the drawer. So many of the spirits would just not leave him alone until he’d listened to their messages.

The face that looked back at him from the mirror had a healthy glow now – now he could start seeing clients. His cheap plastic watch beeped the hour and the carnival music started playing outside. He pulled at the white shirt he was wearing. He preferred calling his work clothes costume-party-gypsy-chic. It was what people expected him to wear.

He walked the short distance from his trailer to the tent where he plied his trade. Some of those who had arrived early at the carnival grounds already gazed at the red and purple tent with curious expressions. Markus knew that, before the end of the day, at least one of them would have come to visit him. It was like people just knew when spirits were there to speak with them.

Markus ducked into the tent, bending almost double because of his height. Green eyes that had seen too much of life darted around the tent to make sure everything was in its place before he sat down at the table and ran a hand through dark shoulder-length hair.

Tightness gripped his chest as the spirits closed in around him. He sat down at the table, drumming his fingers on the wood.

“You’ll have to step back,” he said to the spirits only he could see. His voice had a subtle English lilt to it, betraying a youth spent in England.

All but one of the spirits stepped back — an elderly man with a thin grey moustache and a birthmark covering part of his face. Markus glared at him.

His first clients — four bubbling teenage girls — entered.

“So,” one said, sitting down and sticking out her palm, “what does my future hold?” She giggled and Markus wished his childhood years had been so carefree.

The elderly man stepped forward.

“I am her grandfather,” he said.

“Coming to… take her to the light. There’s going to be a car crash this afternoon.”

Markus took the girl’s hand and stared at the lines on her palm.

“In your future I see a lot still happening,” Markus said. “You will have one great love in your life.” The girls giggled.

“And Peter is here, hoping to see you. You’ll find him by the cotton candy.” Markus grinned at the girl’s surprised expression. It was difficult as hell being a real psychic, but when he could give someone some happiness it seemed worth it.

The girls paid and rushed out of the tent.

“Thank you for not telling her,” the elderly man said and Markus nodded.