Teachers Write! 6/26 Tuesday Quick-Write

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.

Step One:

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.

Step Two:

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 Beaverton
From:  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.)

 Step three:

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!

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62 Comments

  1. Posted June 26, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    I am going to use a minor character-in-progress. He’s the father of my main character, Manny. Dad doesn’t have a name yet. But I am trying to flesh him out a bit – Kevin

    Name: Dad (Manny’s Dad)

    Physical: About 6 feet tall, weighs about 200 pounds. Sharp, piercing eyes. Mouth works as brain reacts, so comments can fly. But loving, too, even when being critical.

    Song: Lawyers, Guns and Money by Warren Zevon ( http://youtu.be/XgyMUChgcbU ) — Dad reads the newspaper regularly, trying to see the “real story” and often views the world through a lens of conspiracy theory. This song captures that and also anchors him to the Reagan years.

    History: Manny’s Dad grew up in a middle America town where everyone looked after each other, as long as you weren’t a complete outcast. He believes in the “lift yourself up by the bootstraps” version of our country that doesn’t quite exist anymore, and he believes it is our government that is primarily the problem. But he is not immune to the fact that people want success right away these days instead of understanding that you work your way up from the bottom. (It may be that he was passed over for a promotion by a Young Turk with connections.) Therefore, we first see him in the story as he reads between the lines of every newspaper story, seeing the “truths” of the world that the journalists fail to see. The Reagan years are stuck in his perception of the world, when gun runners, counter-revolutions and behind-the-scenes political maneuvering made headlines on a regular basis. Dad thinks those things are still going on; they just don’t get reported anymore. He’s an armchair critic, though, who prefers to grumble about the state of the world rather than make change. And it’s not that his observations are so off-kilter as to be kooky; Dad is intelligent and insightful but comes at the world from the potential conspiracy angle. He does OK in his own profession (not sure what that is, yet) and provides a solid life for his family. While he is critical of his son, Manny (the main character), he is not too overbearing. It’s clear he wants to be a good father, and probably is. Dad works to make a relationship with Manny work. Manny doesn’t quite get his dad, though. Typical kid.

    Now, to turn off Zevon. I’m right back in the 1980s with that song. –Kevin

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Kevin,

      Perfect song! It totally brings me to the struggles of inner America and the internal beat of a Dad trying to do his best. Now, when you are writing let that beat stick in your head. Then, contrast it with Manny’s beat. See what happens. Does it improve your dialogue? Does it propel your story?

      Best,

      Julie

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Awesome job with Manny’s dad. I feel like this dad is very relatable and on a lot of levels very unlike parents of today making it even harder for Manny to relate to him because he is would be unlike his friends’ parents as well.

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Kevin-

      The three things that immediately struck me about your post:

      1) The depth of the backstory that this character has now. Even if you never use any of it in the story, like the postman who delivers the letter that changes your hero’s fate, he’s got his own life outside the story that you can access if you need it.
      2) The sense that by defining the character as you already have, you are also defining the points where he and the MC contrast and compare. Cool. This will be a valuable point to make with my students when they use this technique.
      3) Your excellent taste in music. I was just listening to a Hindu Love Gods jam in the car yesterday. Good stuff.

      Thanks!

  2. Posted June 26, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Hi Kevin,

    I know this dad! Or at least I feel as if I know him. I like the way you weave in the song and the image you create of him reading the newspaper. Well done. I’m dying to know how Manny sees him. Does he buy into Dad’s conspiracy views? Does he want to be just like Dad? Or does he have the opposite view of him? What does Manny “consciously” know about his dad and how they feel about each other, and what is unconscious? Will Dad remain a minor figure or will Manny’s relationship with him grow, evolve and ultimately change?

    Look forward to reading more!

    Best,
    Karen

  3. Gae Polisner
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I have always avoided finding photos that look like my characters in my head because I wanted my characters to be themselves not a foto of someone else who exists. In my most recent manuscript I was really having trouble getting the depth of my main character and accidentally stumbled on a photo of someone who looked exactly like her in my head. Having that photo has helped so much! I’m not sure what this adds, but sharing. 🙂 Happy Tuesday! Get writing. Keep going.

    – gae

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      The above lesson is a good prewriting strategy when you’re not sure what you are going to write about or simply need inspirations.

      Before I write I usually draw my characters (vs. trying to find the pictures). I find that there is something about getting the colored pencils out that really moves my process. I also draw scenes and conflicts. Am I good at drawing. Not at all!

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Gae,
      Does Jaycee listen to punk music?:)
      Happy writing!
      Andy

  4. Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink
    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Just checked it out. Loved it.

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Excellent! I love it! It is interesting how much you can learn about a character from the music they listen to. I wonder if you emptied your character’s pockets what else you might find out about your character?:)

      Happy writing!

  5. ShyrlAnn
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I think this might be a helpful scaffold for my third-grade students when we are developing characters for our realistic fiction unit (we use Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study). Thank you for the idea!

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      ShyriAnn, I studied Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study for my MsEd. This would be perfect. I’d cut the pictures first and have them choose a song from a list that you generated.

      You could really get into this. You could always have the kids act out the characters. Or dance to their personality trait. That might the a hoot!

      I’d love to hear how it goes.

      Julie

  6. Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Julie! Your post is serendipitous! I have been thinking about this very thing (music) for the last couple of weeks–especially with my MC and the various kinds of music she likes. I just wrote a chapter on Sunday where I wove in some of her favorite music (Taylor Swift), and I’ve written other scenes where the music she listens to (Smashing Pumpkins) reflects what she’s feeling and it also reflects a shift in her. It’s interesting how the music we listen to as we write influences what we write. Sometimes I can’t focus on my writing if I’m listening to music (or any background noise for that matter) and other times, the music helps me find my writing groove and things fall into place. Thanks for sharing your insight today!

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Micki,

      I think that I mentioned that I created this lesson for college kids. I’m lucky enough to teach in a room with a movie screen and surround sound. It never fails to astound me the difference using multi-mixed media to create story. I mean, really, everything is a story! Think about viral advertisements, think about music videos, you tube dramas. Everything is a story, but you need to go back to the essentials of what makes a story good: conflict, character, mood, tension! It all blends together. What’s interesting to me is that this lesson appeals to kids who don’t really love writing (but might be little story geniuses!).

      Julie

      • Andrea Payan
        Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        Julie,

        I can see something like this working well for helping students to hear the mood in a piece of writing as well. With 8th grade students this could get them really thinking about the writing that is generated with different songs in the background. Thanks for all of the ideas. I can definitely see incorporating this type of lesson into my 8th grade classroom.

  7. Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Good morning TW!

    Thanks for giving us such a fascinating quickwrite idea, Julie! This is a winner for me in my process. I’m looking forward to employing it with my students, too.

    I always have a picture in my head of what the character looks like. Fortunately, as a teacher, I see 200 new young faces each year. Since I write YA/MG this is an advantage. Disadvantage: I have to be careful when I’ve chosen a remarkable face from those real ones, and make sure I differentiate the description enough that *I’m* the only one who knows which kid I was thinking about.

    But, the music…Oh, the music! I’m sure a lot of writers prepare playlists for certain characters as they evolve (I know I do!) and play them when they are writing certain scenes or focusing on certain characters. I also find myself, the more I get to know a character, creating more focused playlists. Example:

    Marlon Pissed Off: Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden, Man In A Box & Rooster by Alice in Chains, Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails, etc.

    Marlon Happy: Anything by Green Day, Paul Westerberg, Violent Femmes, etc.

    While some of this is music that the character likes, (and eventually a song or two will be referenced in the work), it’s mostly the music that leads me to their way of thinking.

    However, I’ve never considered STARTING with the music. *trots off to go try*

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Jessica,

      Can’t wait to read more about Marlon! Sounds like a really fascinating character. Agreed that sometimes teaching can make you too close to the age group that you are writing for. That’s an interesting topic in itself: How to create character without stealing from a bunch of kids who are trying to hard to be alike!

      Memorable characters are quirky, brave, multidimensional, and flawed. In writing we need to dig in. Can using music help, sure can!

      Julie

      • Posted June 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Julie-

        I gave it a try using Marlon’s mom, Anita. She’s someone that I didn’t feel like I had a handle on very well, she didn’t have the layers of complexity necessary for her to work as such a big force in Marlon’s life. This exercise was really helpful in fleshing her out a little more.

        Here’s a link to the completed quickwrite (in case anyone is interested):

        http://mojofingers.blogspot.com/2012/06/anita-preston-grunt-garza.html

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      I’m still trying to figure out Spotify’s share features, but wouldn’t it be rad if we could link to our playlists? I’ve made a few as I’ve been working on #buckybook so far.

  8. Nanette
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Name: Larissa Glascon aka Lira
    From: Gundar, kingdom where magic is not allowed
    Physical Characteristics: Brown hair with sable highlights (is there a word for that?)
    Heart shaped face with delicate dark eyebrows and lush eyelashes
    Straight prominent nose, small mouth that easily breaks into a wide smile
    Mark of the Guardian on the inside of her right forearm

    External Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSS5dEeMX64
    Mulan’s I’ll Make a Man out of You (wow… lots of similarities in characters!)

    Internal Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIE0wTFg364
    I’m thinking about “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” by Blue Oyster Cult

    Lira is a mage who gets caught up with two men from the Kingdom of Anderen. They rescue her from a land where magic is not allowed and bring her to the Temple of the Goddess where she can learn to use her magic.

    But Lira is not a good obedient little girl. She feels stifled in the Temple of the Goddess and wants, no demands a life with more meaning. Finally, she is allowed to go to the Guardian’s Temple where she dedicates her life to serving him. Too bad most of the Guardian’s followers are of the “no women allowed” mentality. However, what a God wants, a God gets and Lira is trained as the first battle mage to show up in fifty years. She feels like she is doing what she was meant to do. (kick ass)

    OH! and the picture for Lira is….http://www.mariawilliam.net/Shades.jpg
    I bought this print and I love it. Not sure if it’s what Lira looks like, but the more I see it the more I like it!

    Oh… and my son was in the Mulan musical in 8th grade. He played her father 😉

    • Nanette
      Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      What does it mean your comment is waiting moderation? can anyone else see it?

      • Posted June 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        Waiting in moderation means that it needs to be approved.

        • Nanette
          Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

          Ten hours later… makes me wonder what I did wrong.

  9. Posted June 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed the post and modified the activity to work for some of the characters of my current WIP. I have never thought about the music that they would enjoy if they were listening to music in the story. I wrote the character, music title and artist, and a sentence or two from the story that goes along with the character and the song. Here is what I found:

    Character: Grandma (supporting character)
    Music: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxuThNgl3YA
    Flirtin’ With Disaster by Molly Hatchet – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgNAfSENE68 – that she will listen to on her IPod while running
    Excerpt: While I am intently peering in the direction of the small party, I hear Grandma rustling around in her backpack. I turn and she has some form of fireworks in her hand. I think that they are called bottle rockets, but I am not sure. Before I can even ask what Grandma is going to do with the rocket, she is lighting one rocket with a small lighter. She lights the rocket and points it in the direction of the teenagers.

    Character: Dad (supporting character)
    Music: TNT by AC/DC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR30knJs4Xk – Dad thinks that he is cooler than he actually is:)
    Excerpt: “Wow! Look at those wheels!” Jamie says as he points at my dad’s new 2011 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, which is a dark red SL65 AMG Roadster convertible. “You’re so lucky. Your dad is so cool. I wish my dad would buy a sports car.

    Character: Steven (main character)
    Music: Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbJtYqBYCV8
    Hey, Soul Sister by Train – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVpv8-5XWOI – A shy, timid romantic
    Excerpt: I still stand there without saying anything and she is just staring at me. I am willing myself to talk to her, but her blond hair, blue eyes, and unbelievable smile leaves me stunned.

    Thank you for this activity. I am downloading music for my manuscript as I write. I am downloading a song or two for each character (main and supporting). When I am done, I will have music to listen to while I continue to write.:)

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Andy,

      Wow! I love the diversity of the songs. I had a real John Waters feel for your story, especially the parents (Born to Run is hysterical for the Grandma!). Your ideas already come to life and I’d certainly read more.

      I’ll also listen while writing. I have a Gothic thriller that is under consideration right now and I listened to this really creepy Baroque music. It helped to create a heavy setting.

      Keep up the great work,

      Julie

      Best,

      Julie

  10. Posted June 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the prompt today. A couple of years ago I had a song that was my writing/productivity song. It could be on repeat for hours. Instead of being obnoxious, it really helped me focus because the beat would move me along while the words become more incidental and washed over me.

    I started the prompt with two of my characters. The first one can be seen: http://pageintraining.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/teachers-write-a-prompt-response/

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Sarah W., Thanks for sharing!

      Bob studied it. “Do you have any Legos?”
      “Yeah. Most of them are in a marble obstacle course. Why?”
      “We’re going to build this problem. Then you can see it.”
      Maybe Bob knowing his problem wasn’t so bad. Maybe.

      I love this part! You had my attention from the beginning of the excerpt to the end. I actually visited your site to see your music connection and then got caught up in the excerpt. I had to go back and look at the music connection. Thanks again for sharing!

      • Posted June 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        The LEGOS part was my favorite too and it totally fit the music!

      • Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Andy. The Legos were my favorite part too.

  11. Posted June 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Hi, Kim! Just so you know why it didn’t show up right away, this comment got caught up in my blog spam filter (I think the system must have flagged it because it was a fairly generic comment followed by the link. Sorry it took me so long to find/approve it – I’m away this week with spotty internet, but you should be all set now!

  12. Bridget
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    This was an interesting one, but I had fun with it!

    Here goes…

    Picture:
    http://www.google.com/imgres?q=kids&hl=en&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=1366&bih=625&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnsbl&tbnid=nSWMrW8IM9hMWM:&imgrefurl=http://littlekidsrock.org/&docid=xjPcUhibBRwG5M&imgurl=http://littlekidsrock.org/db/img/Kids.jpg&w=410&h=308&ei=e_fpT7neE8Ll6QHD84CDDQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=424&vpy=104&dur=656&hovh=195&hovw=259&tx=184&ty=117&sig=116848898661059133409&page=1&tbnh=134&tbnw=203&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:0,i:100

    Name: David Duschenne, nickname to family is “D”
    Physical description: excited big, brown eyes and a contagious smile, wears jeans and t-shirts because clothes are not the way he chooses to express himself
    Internal characteristics: David loves to listen to wordless music; does homework with his iPod playing; finds it difficult to focus on classwork unless he can get a tune in his head first; while the other kids play at recess, David sits in the shade by himself with his eyes closed and crafts his own tunes in his head; recently got a guitar as a gift for his birthday and spends each day counting the hours until he can get home to play it; his father died when he was younger and he doesn’t remember much about him except that he loved to listen to the radio – his “soul music”; David dreams of having his own band one day so he can share with other people his life through his music.
    Song: Even if it breaks your heart by Eli Young band (speaks for inner and outer character)

    • Bridget
      Posted June 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      I’ve added more and changed some things since I first posted and I’m really liking how this is going. I can definitely see a good story here. Thanks so much for the idea!!

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      I really love the picture you have created for David. He seems very introverted and I feel like there is a perfect girl coming along that will understand him. I love your song choice as well, it feel like I understand him even more because of the song.

  13. Posted June 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    This is the second day I am not able to link my blog. Can someone tell me if there’s something special I need to do in order to put copy/paste my blog link in my comment text? Thanks!
    My Tuesday quick-write is on my blog. If you click on my name, it will take you there!

    • Posted June 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      I can answer that question. If you have a WordPress site, you need to mark it, then hit the link button (Small chain icon) on the top. A box will come up add your site there.

      • Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, Julie, but that doesn’t work for me. Mine is on blogspot.

        • Andrea Payan
          Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          Kim- I read your blog post. I like the character. That picture made me chuckle and you were so creative with the secrets that he has. I have a blog on blogspot and it has not been an issue for me. I am sure this is what you do, but I will tell you anyway just in case. I just copy the url from the address bar on my blog and paste it into the comment I am posting.

  14. Andrea Payan
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I found an image on Google to write about today and did the assignment on my blog. I am not working currently on anything so I love these explorations! I will definitely use this assignment in my middle school writing classes this year. They love finding songs to fit different assignments. Here’s the link to my blog:
    http://payanwriting.blogspot.com/

  15. Brian
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I played around with two key characters that I’ve been coming back to periodically during Teacher’s Write. One’s a neat freak teacher, now named Sidney March, and the other’s the master of student disorganization disaster, Ben Brubaker. I suspect this writing is becoming affordable therapy for me, as I unpack one still-vexing relationship from this past school year 🙂

    On the inside, Sid listens to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOqn6DgJcF8; on the outside, this track seems more fitting with its insistent melody and relentless bass line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEV58ztuihs. Fun-loving Ben feature this external track: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp6j5HJ-Cok; while inside, the music betrays a more unsettled and fragmented tone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awoi337Chl8.

    Thank for the inspiration, Julie. This activity definitely provided some insights into these two and even led me to their names for now.

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Loved the contrast of the music! Funny, when I used to teach music around a favorite song that influenced the student. Johnny Cash is so ingrained in the fabric of our culture that he came up every single class. Just listening to Walk the Line made me feel that I really knew that character. Another interesting lesson to do is to have kids project after reading a book what song they would choose for a character (essentially flipping this lesson to reading to activate higher level comprehension skills).

  16. Posted June 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I love the idea of matching a song to a character. I am in love with Paramore’s Only Exception and I have an idea for a character and book to go along with that. I have been adding other songs to my list of songs that would match the story in my head as I am brainstorming. I’m not ready to write it yet, but when I am, I’ll have my playlist ready!

    I love the idea of really knowing a character. It’s important to know a character inside and out even if what you know about him or her never really gets to the reader. Thanks for this!

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      Jen, once you’ll do this you’ll notice just how well movies and reality television uses this technique. Really, it’s genius and an art form! Who knew?

      Agreed that spending time getting to know characters before you write solves a lot revision
      problems (I’ve rewritten my Gothic YA thriller five times from start to finish- sigh…). My newer books have been cleaner after using this practice.

  17. Cindy
    Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I can see my 6th graders loving this activity. It’ll be interesting to see what music they pick. I’m too tired to write tonight (just finished the 2nd day of Cub Scout Day Camp), but I’ll be imagining characters as I listen to music, and listening more carefully to the lyrics to see what type of character they match. Thanks.

  18. Posted June 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea of using this with my sixth graders. They will do much better than me. As I read blogs one of the questions asked of authors is often what music they listen to. Here is my dilemma with this assignment. I very seldom listen to music. When I do, it is praise music. This would be so cool and beneficial for rounding out my current characters. Suggestions to point me in a direction for finding appropriate music? How do you choose for characters you’ve already written that need some help?

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Great question Sandra! I’d say that You Tube and Pandora our are writing friends. I’d also focus on the beat of the music. Think about your students and the different ways they walk into the room, then break them down. Who’s a Patsy Cline song? Who would better match a song from Beyonce? It’s more about putting their internal/external beat into your own head and then infusing your writing with it. Does that make sense?

      • Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Thanks that makes perfect sense and I will try it out with my current characters. Thanks.

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Spotify is worth a look too — it’s like Pandora, but you can specify songs or artists/styles/etc.

      • Posted June 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, I’d not heard of Spotify, but I’ll check it out.

  19. Posted June 27, 2012 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Bucky loved music: “…he explained to me that the beat related, somehow, to to a mathematical shorthand that he had just then developed to help him chart his excursions into the universe.”

    Read more here:

    http://www.mshoughtonsclass.com/2012/06/26/bucky-songs/

  20. Posted June 27, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    New learning yesterday on fun website that might be really fun in adding to character development! It’s called “Fakebook” and you can plug in background on a character like you do on Facebook and then add friends and comments that might apply to the character, you can also add or let google randomly add pictures for the profile pic. You can also add videos as posts the character might make or post as part of their roles…
    I found one for The Cat in the Hat as an example: http://www.classtools.net/fb/1/bWDKCU
    Whenever you make a character just be sure to save the unique URL generated by it so you can get back to it!
    Amy

  21. Kelsey
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    This is my first post for the Teacher’s Write blog – Now that I am on break for the Summer I am catching myself up! I only had a little time so I may work on the activity more later, but this is what I got so far using the prompt above. I included my brainstorming from the picture and then the story I wrote while the song was playing is at the bottom. I could definitely see this being a great activity for students!

    Name: Jenna
    Physical Traits: Beautiful, petite, slender, fragile. beautifully mussed up light brown hair, approaching 30
    Feelings: Nervous, trying too hard, aiming for perfection, worried, confused, lost, mind is somewhere else, sad
    Secrets: I’m not beautiful enough, beauty isn’t enough, what am I doing with my life? Do people appreciate me for anything beyond my beauty? Are they able to see beyond the surface? Do I see myself below the surface? I’m so tired of trying to figure out what I should be doing with my life. I feel like I want to cry but I can’t get to that deepest part of myself. I can’t reach the part of myself that hurts. I hide behind my body, beneath my perfect porcelain skin. I keep my eyes shaded because they might give my imperfections away. I think I remember being someone else but I can’t reach her anymore. It’s like an old life, an old version of me.

    Song:
    Bronte – Gotye

    They found me – discovered me. Like I didn’t exist before.
    They say that your cells regenerate periodically as you get older so by the time you’re an adult you are completely different from yourself as a child. I mourn that lost little girl, that part of me that slowly faded, grew weak and died.
    I remember my sister playing with my hair. She hums along, absorbed in her task. When she’s done I turn around to face the mirror and I see my head framed in my sister’s hands like a masterpiece. “See? Now you’re beautiful.”

    • Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      “They say that your cells regenerate periodically as you get older so by the time you’re an adult you are completely different from yourself as a child. I mourn that lost little girl, that part of me that slowly faded, grew weak and died.”

      I pulled this quote because it is so darn powerful. I immediately want to know who this girl is vs. the lost child in her. Amazing! Keep up this story, it has great promise.

      • Kelsey
        Posted June 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Julie! I appreciate the feedback 🙂

  22. Posted June 29, 2012 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    I chose an ant for my character. I was quite amused by the music choices he presented me with!

    http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2012/06/your-characters-playlist.html

    • Kelsey
      Posted June 29, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      I love your ant Mary Lee! Way to think outside the box! The short tough little statements really capture an ant’s personality and I could truly see this working as a kid’s book. The crazy ant song is pretty funny too – can’t say I retained all of that information but it did give me a new appreciation for the anatomy of those pesky little bugs!

  23. MsJenx
    Posted July 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I apologize for being over a week late, but this camp has gotten me writing on other projects and I have been focusing on those. Nevertheless, I am playing catch up.

    Lila is a free spirited person who enjoys life without regrets. Her
    soon to be fiance, she doesn’t know, absolutely adores her. She is a very diverse person who has “salsaed” the night away in Puerto Rico, Miami, and any Latin spot, cruises art galleries, has book talks with student writers . . . She is feeling on top of the world. She is living life without regrets and refuses to apologize to anyone for living life on purpose. A secret she has hid well . . . She moved clear across the country to start over. . . She has a past. Party girl who would drink you under the table while bringing some unnammed fella who will remain nameless and on a long list . . .

    Kelly Clarkson “Mr. Know It All” —-> INTERNAL —> What used to be an on and off again lover snakes his way back into her world. He has a hard time believing in the changes that Lila is standing firming in. He wants to drudge her past . . . in order to win her back into her heart. She is struggling with people knowing about her past and how to shut him up!

    Ledisi “Bravo” —> EXTERNAL —> She has come to place in life where she is clapping for herself and congratulating herself since some people who were cheering her now have a reason to despise, hate, and love her in the same breath. She refuses to let people bring her down off her high. She left that lifestyle behind her and she is going to keep climbing!

    Despite what has happened in the past, I am moving forward. Moving clear across the country helped me embrace the real me and the new me to my old counterparts. There was no changing back home so I had to get out. I have no family and the friends that I did have couldn’t believe their eyes or better yet their eyes. Nevertheless, I don’t apologize for living the life I am destined to live. Who cares if you don’t have an audience cheering you on or screaming for an encore? I will give myself a hand to congratulate the much needed change. A change that I can’t talk about ever. It is in the past and I am moving on to bigger and better things.

    I told you that I didn’t want to talk about my past, but this critter crawled out of the sewer to bring out past with him. Out of all the cities that he could have relocated to, why is he here? He thinks that seeing that fine face will cause me to melt back in arms? There isn’t a chance in a hot, humid summer day in July that I would beg him for a glass of water. I rather just die of thirst. My finance is the love of my life, the man who God blessed me. Why would I leave him for a rat?

  24. Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m late, but I finally tried this prompt here.

    Thanks, Kate! We appreciate all the great prompts you and your writer friends are sending our way!

    Denise

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