Welcome to Tuesday Quick-Write! Got your keyboard or pencil ready? Today, Julie True Kingsley joins us with a writing prompt on character development…
Finding The Character Within
Today we are going to work on finding the character within. Let’s get started. First, close your eyes. Try to envision a well-rounded, complex, flushed out character. Give yourself a few minutes.
How’d you do? I bet your character is kind of flat, not really that well rounded yet. Perfectly normal! Okay, bail on this idea of trying to pull a character out of thin air. I have a better idea. Today, we will do a multi-mixed media guided writing.
Okay, let me take a step back. I am a former fourth, fifth, and seventh grade (writing) teacher. For the last couple of years, I’ve been teaching communications at a college in Maine. Here, I learned something amazing– simply incorporate mixed media into a writing lesson and you end up with the most creative stories, seemingly effortlessly.
Did I mention that I’m writer too? The kind of writer that’s still in the trenches, flushing around trying to get my manuscript perfect, and currently on submission playing the waiting game. How does this approach help my writing life? Before I start a writing piece, I find the true characters within with a keen eye to mixed-media tools (Think of the Imperial March when Darth Vader appears in Star Wars, notice how they use music to heighten character. It’s genius!). Once you start doing this your own story will unfold like a movie simply because our brain is trained to link music to a specific emotion. Isn’t that what reading is about, having an emotional connection to character? So, why not embrace this idea. Let’s start right now.
Pull out your magazines and look for faces that you find interesting (You could also do a Google Images search or use Pinterest). What faces call you? Pick one.
(Teaching Note: I make students pull a picture from a paper bag)
Take in the photo. What do you notice about this person? Give the person some traits. Start with physical traits (So easy!), now look deeper. What do you think this person is feeling? What makes the person’s heart tick? Secrets? Yes, they are there. Find them. Dig deeper. Learn more. Push yourself here.
Find songs that match your character’s inner and outer character. Play around with this. You Tube is your friend. Go find that song that represents your character.
(Teacher note: Depending on the age group you teach you might need to frontload different styles of music and have them choose between a few specific choices. You know your kids, do what they do they can deal with.)
Example:Name: Trudy BeavertonFrom: Erie, Pennsylvania Physical Characteristics: Short brown hair, brown eyes, bushy eyebrows.(External song: Rock with You by Michael Jackson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbxP9leMw88&feature=related) Internal Characteristics: (Internal Song: Back & Black by ACDC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwIvBNsSywQ)
Yes, Trudy is a closet head banger who loves heavy metal! Deep down, she’s rocker. If only everyone knew the real her!
Imagine if I chose this song: Summer Girls by LFO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1dfEf1qOt4 She’s a completely different now, isn’t she? Maybe a tad less interesting. Maybe a whole lot more mainstream. Maybe she wants to move to California, bleach her hair blond, and learn to skateboard. Does she love Justin Beiber? Yeah!
(See how these song changes this character and really sets up who a story of where Trudy could go.)
Start this character’s story. Go on, try a half a page. Keep the music on. Put the beat into your story. See what happens. If you are motivated try numerous songs. Notice, how does your sentence structure changes with the beat of the music? Does the beat find its way into your words?
Okay, I can’t stop listening. This is an irresistible lesson (Must turn off LFO).
Remember this is prewriting, but dig in. Notice how it affects writer’s voice. I encourage you to break my rules. Maybe your character has dual personalities. Maybe different times of the day bring on a changing mood. Play with this. And remember, writing should be fun. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with! Enjoy!
Note from Kate: If you have a work-in-progress and a character you’ve already met, try this for your character-in-progress instead of clipping from a magazine. Music can tell you a lot about who your character really is!