Teachers Write 8/7/14 – Thursday Quick-Write

Good morning! Guest author Erin Dealey joins us for today’s Thursday Quick-Write. Erin writes wonderfully fun picture books for young readers, including GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX and DECK THE WALLS: A WACKY CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Let It go

Congratulations! You’re already five weeks into TEACHERS WRITE! I applaud you for taking the time for YOURSELVES this summer. Your students will notice the difference, believe me. As a teacher, I know that the minute I started writing for myself, I began to look at every writing assignment I gave my students with new eyes, and a renewed passion. But we’re not done yet!

After Monday’s work on dialog, you’ve no doubt gotten to know your characters better, but I’m betting they’re hiding something from you. Today’s Quick-write is designed for you to put a finger on that missing piece… Characters have layers. Here’s a way to dig deeper.

Before you write: Take a moment to get into your main character’s head–or that of a supporting character you’ve been avoiding… You can do this by closing your eyes and visualizing the character or reading a key scene you’ve written about him/her. Is your MC hiding important feelings? Covering for a friend? Too shy to verbalize something that’s been bugging him/her? (Are you afraid of letting the MC change the course of your outline or story? Have you been so worried about proper punctuation and grammar you’ve stifled your character’s voice?)

For the next two minutes, try this quick-write as if your character is writing it.

Begin with this sentence: I’ve sort of been afraid to tell you this, but……

WARNING: Do NOT let the teacher in you OR the obsessive-editor-in-your-head hijack this assignment. : ) See what shows up on the page. Not all books are grammatically correct. When I first started writing I thought I had an obligation to my students to set a good example! What would have happened to e.e. cummings if he’d let his “editor-hat” take over his poems?

LET IT GO!!!!!!! Feel free to share your final paragraph in the comments if you’d like!

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14 Comments

  1. Kristina Paustian
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    What fun! I had no idea I was insulting my character’s intelligence until she let me know in this free write! : )

    I’ve been afraid to tell you this, but I don’t think I would make the foolish decisions that you have me
    doing in the story. I am impulsive, but I do have morals and good sense. I know you want to
    move the plot along,but don’t do it at my expense. I think if you have me dealing with life as it
    happens that would be enough to make the plot interesting instead of having me intentionally
    making choices that I need to learn hard lessons from. Life brings enough twists and turns on its own, just let things happen naturally instead of making me play the fool.

    • Terry Turner
      Posted August 7, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Kristina-
      I love this! So often I wonder why a character would possibly have made a certain choice. It’s great to think of the characters wondering that back at us.
      Terry

    • Posted August 7, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Your character has given very specific feedback. Great insight.

    • Posted August 7, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Hi Kristina,
      This is great! The next step is heeding what she has to say. It’s the same lesson we want our students to learn: LISTEN.

      I also think it’s an offshoot of what Tomie dePaola advised at the recent SCBWI conference in LA: Be Brave. (Judy Blume agreed!)
      Happy Writing!
      Erin

  2. Posted August 7, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Okay, I understand you do not envision yourself actually writing a story. You doubt yourself. You don’t think you have time, energy, yada yada yada. Enough already. I want to live, I want to come to life. I know it won’t be easy, but think about me for a change. I have lots to show you. You are not perfect and either am I. Let’s start this journey together okay? I hope to be with you very soon.

    • Posted August 7, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Hi Meg–
      Looks like your character is trying to get out on that page. Start the journey! There is never a “perfect time” to write. Jump in and see what happens. We’re behind you all the way!
      Best,
      Erin

  3. Posted August 7, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Erin,

    I LOVE this writing prompt. Thank you.

    Today, I’m going to think about it while I walk the pooches, before getting back to my W.I.P. (I’m sure my characters have been holding back secrets from me.)

    And I know I’ll use this prompt next time I’m working with young writers.

    I’m not afraid to tell you . . . THANKS FOR SUCH A GREAT PROMPT!

    • Posted August 7, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Hi Donna,
      I’m glad you can use it!

      It’s such fun to be back to TeachersWrite after Fine Arts Camp and #LA14SCBWI. I missed everyone!
      Best,
      Erin

  4. Tammy Petty Conrad
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Main Character – I’ve sort of been afraid to tell you this, but……
    I’m not really a hero and I’m not looking to be anything special. I’m trying to stay out of trouble with the teacher and with Mary Beth. I just want to do my own thing. Carl is fun to hang out with. I don’t care that he’s a boy. I don’t want to play Barbie anyway. Why do I have to be the one to make friends with the new girl and share a lesson with the whole school?

    Interesting exercise, going to try it with my other characters. Thanks!

  5. Posted August 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Calista, sister of Everett (the MC) –

    …It seemed like the harder I tried, the bigger the gap between us grew. While other coaches and friends praised my hard work and accomplishments, Dad and Everett could only see me as “the girl of the family”. As if I was a lesser child. They couldn’t see past the pony tail. My attention was more like a condescending “nice try” pat on the head, versus an encouraging “Way to go! You rock, Calista!” pat on the back.

    I could never be on their team. I wasn’t McNeil-enough for them. They couldn’t see me as a conqueror.

    So yeah, I became hardened. I became bitter. I was hell-bent to prove them wrong. But does that make me so one-dimensional? Is that the only side of my story worth telling? Doesn’t that make you just as narrow minded and chauvinistic as Dad or Everett? Maybe you should talk to a few girls who grew up in male-dominated households so you can see my point of view. Ask them how it felt to be the younger sister to a star athlete. Ask them what it was like to be the coach’s daughter? Before you write me off, walk in my shoes. My story, might make your story richer.

    • Jennifer
      Posted August 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Wow! I could see a story of Calista’s own developing from this! I definitely want to know more!

  6. Jennifer
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I wrote this first response to the prompt and set it aside for a few minutes. Then, suddenly a second response poured from my pen. I’ve included both.

    Character: Miss Adams, a fourth grade teacher

    …I don’t know why you can’t decide my motivation. Sometimes, I think that you think I’m a monster, while other times you seem to act as though there is something redeeming in me deep down. I know that I’m the “bad guy” in your story and I accept that, but have you really asked me why I do the things I do? You need to decide what my history is and be done with it! Just make up your mind and choose!

    …No one has ever questioned me before. Not you, parents, kids. I’ve been doing this for a long time and you’re the first person to question how I interact with students. I don’t think I’m a bad person-I just don’t have the time for a lot of touchy-feely stuff. I have a job to do and I don’t have time to be everyone’s nursemaid. We have a lot to accomplish in fourth grade.

  7. Terry Turner
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Late to the party, but glad to sit down and write. This is Owen, my MC.

    I’ve sort of been afraid to tell you this, but……

    I don’t know how to get from where we started to where you put me. I’m just a kid. I don’t change overnight. I need a little coaxing out of my shell, so time to build confidence before you throw me into socializing with other kids. You would never abandon your own kids that fast into social situations, why are you so quick to ditch me?

    Give me the opportunity to learn. Sure, I’m smart, and understand all about animals and insects. But I’ve never studied people, and that’s what I need to do in order to assimilate with other kids. Have patience with me. I’m worth it.

  8. Posted August 8, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow–what fun to read what everyone’s characters have to say.

    Teachers: You could use this in a history or biography unit and have your students “ask” the historical figure what she/he really wants them to know…

    Awesome stuff, everyone!
    Best,
    Erin

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