People watching; characterization and dialogue

Date written: September 20th

Target audience: teenagers and young adults

Possible place of publication: can be used in a novel for teens or young adults


There’s just no studying in study halls

Characterization and Dialogue: There’s just no studying in study halls

By: Silvia Adamy


A normal afternoon in the cafeteria. A few classrooms, whose teacher called in sick, or perhaps just didn’t feel like teaching, occupy a handful of tables. Spare students are scattered around the remaining ones, some intermingled with the full classes. Across the room, a young teenage boy sits with a crowded table of energetic 16 – 17 year olds. His dark hooded sweater, thick and cozy, contrasts sharply with the white brick-patterned wall behind him. It loosely hugs his skinny frame, accentuating the almost scary effects of a velocious teenage boy’s metabolism. His legs sprawled under the table, his back bent in concentration, his head hovers over something on the table. Kids around him throw empty pop bottles and pencil nubs at each other, oblivious to his calm manner. He might be part of the group, or perhaps not – because he’s actually doing some work. He scratches his high cheekbone with the gnawed end of his pencil and shifts his head, as if the equations in front of him would make sense from a different angle. His eyebrows twitch in confusion above his light blue eyes, the corner of his mouth moves like it’s not sure whether to form a self-amused smirk or a grimace.

“Could I borrow an eraser?” He expectantly turns his whole body to the boy next to him. A smile, probably his ordinary one, but one coming off as mildly ironic, creeps onto his face. A tone of slight bewilderment and amusement touches his voice.

“Don’t have one.” The athletic companion beside him throws him a scoffing leer then goes back to hollering at someone across the room – it might be a similarly dressed friend, or a cute girl, or perhaps the wall.

The boy in the dark sweater swivels around on the bench to the redheaded girl on his other side.

“Could I borrow an eraser?” He repeats the same question, with the same expression, the same coy and mysterious smile.

“You’re making mistakes already?” The redhead bats her mascara-loaded eyelashes and starts nonchalantly digging through her pencil case.

“Well! …” the boy scratches his head and ogles his homework. “I just… I don’t…”

“I see.” The girl chuckles and tosses the eraser nearly into his face. “Have fun.”

The boy’s stutters dissolve into quiet laughter, his smile stretching all the way across his face. He grabs the eraser and furiously erases half his page. It crunches beneath his loose hand and a piece of it rips. He turns his head to look directly at the tear and stares at it for a few seconds, the same slightly satiric, slightly amused expression bending his mouth.

“Well that was…” He turns to return the eraser, but is interrupted with the redhead’s squeal directed to the girl across the table, as she leaps out of her seat.

The boy throws his head back, a delayed reaction, one performed solely for the comical show.
“Okay”. He stretches the “o” out. “Well, looks like I won’t be using this paper anymore.” He states to no one in particular and crumbles it up. The redhead turns back to him.

“What did you do??” She exclaims and starts laughing. “You’re an idiot!”

“How am I an idiot?” The boy grins even wider and looks at his companion with his sparkly light blue eyes. “For ripping up a page?” Sarcasm is one of his natural talents.

“Okay fine,” the girl says and whips out a new page. “Here, take this.” She slaps it in front of him. “Why are you doing this now? You’re so slow.” Out of nowhere, she’s suddenly a little annoyed.

“What?” The boy turns back to her, putting his hands in his lap. “I just wanna get my work done! None of you guys are doing that! You’ll have to do it for homework!”

“So?” The girl raises her eyebrows at him. “At least we’re socializing!” She gestures around her jokingly.
“Yeah man, why don’t you socialize with us?” The redhead’s friend, across the table, blurts out at the boy, a little dispassionately, but still playfully argumentative.
“Well, why don’t you guys join me and get some work done?” A little remorse now joins the smile in the boy’s voice. “We’d all be a lot more efficient!” He enunciates the last t in the sentence, jutting his bottom lip out in a comical grimace. He looks at the two girls with his penetrating eyes from under semi-closed eyelids. Both the girls burst out into giggly laughter, perhaps at his suggestion, perhaps at his funny face.

“I just…” The boy stammers slightly, his face dropping some of it’s sarcasm, allowing the issues he hides deeper inside to show more boldly on his features. Presently, a look of slight frustration emanates from his creases and worry-wrinkles. He throws his hands up in the air briefly then starts collecting his pages with short, brisk, but once again theatratical movements.

“Where are you going??” The redhead asks him over her shoulder, once again chatting jovially with her friend.

“Somewhere quiet!” The boy does the same funny grimace at the t, turning to throw the redhead a playfully-accusing look as he shuffles away. She sticks her tongue out at him then turns back to her riveting conversation about the upcoming Twilight movie. His steps gain more confidence after a few feet. He should have walked out ages ago. There is just no meaning to “study” halls.


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