Self-as-Character Assignment: Eight Examples


Emma Suleski

When I was seven years old I tried to scratch off the beauty mark below my left eye. It bled and I cried. I hated my freckles and that one stupid bump never made me feel any better. I didn’t understand why it was called a beauty mark anyway; I always thought whoever named it that just felt bad for people who had moles on their faces.

My oldest brother Patrick left for college in New York when I was ten. I cried again and wrote him tens of e-mails. He faithfully replied with “I’ll see you soon” and “hang in there, kiddo.” When we finally took a family trip to visit him, I realized why he never came home. The City was intoxicating and from that moment on I was love drunk.

At twelve years old I had a brilliant idea. I found going to the hairdresser to get my bangs trimmed every few weeks tedious and unnecessary. Instead of growing them out, I decided to cut them myself. There were many messy attempts, including the time I trimmed them to half way between my hairline and eyebrows, and the time the trim was so uneven I wore a headband to school for two weeks until I could try again. Eventually I mastered the task enough for my friends to ask me to trim their hair too.

On my thirteenth birthday I received what is still today my most prized possession, my iPod. I loaded 645 songs onto it and bragged to all of my friends about how much music I could listen to, anytime, anywhere. Five years later it has several scratches, a chipped screen, and approximately 5,500 more songs. I love it even more.

I experienced true pride for the first time shortly after my fourteenth birthday. I stood on the podium with my first place trophy at the USA Gymnastics state championship and smiled for my mom’s Nikon. I worked for a moment like this at All-Star Gymnastics for ten years. Nothing could ever take that away from me.

My life came to a screeching halt when I was fifteen and experienced my first heartache. The words “it’s time to quit gymnastics” echoed in my head in a way that made tears well up in my eyes but I did not cry. I heard those words not only from my parents, my coach, and my doctor, but the bones in my body too.

Sixteen and seventeen were an exploration of how to rebuild myself. It was a blur of hard work, sometimes resulting in disappointment, sometimes yielding a beautiful result. It involved a lot of red hair dye, a few too many piercings, a tattoo on my ribs, and one very specific way to make the wings on my eyeliner match. I was always convinced I needed to be one thing in order to be recognized as a person. I needed something to make people get me, my own personal punch line. I wanted a simple defining word, an adjective that made me make sense.

Now, at eighteen years old I am both trial and error. I am success and failure. I am simply a work in progress.

Discussion Questions

  • Why would somebody want to read this piece (the “Who cares?” factor)?
  • Can you clearly identify the author’s intention for the piece?
  • How well does the author support the intention of the piece? Cite specific details that support or take away from the author’s intention.
  • Is there information missing from this piece that would make its intention clearer? What else would you like to know?
  • Does the author portray herself as a round character? How does she do this?
  • Do you trust the author of this piece? Why or why not?
  • How clearly does the author establish a sense of setting/space in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • How clearly does the author establish characters other than the self in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • Did you learn anything new from reading this piece? If so, what?
  • Are there particular passages with engaging language/description that stood out to you? Describe the appeal of these passages.
  • Would you read more writing from this author? Why or why not?


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