Teachers Write 7/10/14 – Thursday Quick-Write

Megan Frazer Blakemore joins us for today’s Thursday Quick-Write! Like some of you, Megan is a librarian, and she’s also the author of great books like THE WATER CASTLE and THE SPY CATCHERS OF MAPLE HILL.

Today’s Thursday Quick Write: Word Hoards

I’ve taken two writing workshops with Monica Wood (whose Pocket Muse books I highly recommend), and in each she did an exercise where we went around the room each person saying a word until we had quite a lengthy list, maybe three to five rounds depending on the number of people you had in the room. Then everyone wrote a story using the words generated.

I called these lists Word Hoards, a term I learned from Beowulf. I’ve done this exercise in turn with groups I’ve led, and keep the list in a notebook so I can go back and find words to inspire me. Over time, I started doing Word Hoards for my characters. I imagine I am one of my characters and that I’m participating in this exercise, and start listing out the words that the character would say, often with surprising results.

This exercise is both about voice because you are thinking about the specific vocabulary of the character, but also about letting yourself go and seeing where you characters will take you.

The exercise: Using a current work in progress, take three or four of your characters and create Word Hoards for them.

Note from Kate: If you don’t have an active work-in-progress, try writing this from the point of view of a character you dream up today. Maybe it will turn into a bigger idea! Or if you’d like to focus on history or science, try writing from the point of view of some historical figure or scientist or animal!

If you’d like to share a few lines of what you wrote today in the comments, we’d love that – and promise that all our comments will be friendly and supportive. If you’d rather keep your writing to yourself today, in your notebook or on your hard drive, that’s fine, too.

Happy writing!

100 Replies on “Teachers Write 7/10/14 – Thursday Quick-Write

  1. oh, my goodness…this was tough to start….but now that I\’ve started this is what I\’ve needed! Thank you. I\’m not keeping to just words….it feels like my characters want me to know them. I took an old timey photo that I am basing my characters on and made a table for words/phrases each would say. I LOVE this. Will keep this going until story emerges. Thank you! Not sure formatting will come out here. Will post it to my blog page for that.
    Alice May Frank Delia
    Fun Lucky Alls-well-that-ends-well
    Dusty Weekend fashionable
    “I” Compel polite
    Sunday Gotta-get-back Right now
    Sunshine Hide flowers
    Laugh Reserve smile
    Sing Mouth-the-words harmonize
    Purse Pocket Hankerchief
    Starch white Undershirt Sunday dress
    Cucumber sandwich Buttered bread Berries off the vine
    Saddle shoes Polished black tie-ups Black leather mary janes
    Cashmere bouquet dusting powder Shaving soap Ivory soap and water
    Stockings with garter and girdle Socks with garter Cotton socks
    Hello Good afternoon Well hello there
    Daisy chicory primrose
    Rent Own Farm homestead
    Collier’s magazine Newspaper psalms
    Silver Gold pearl
    Sponge bath Wash basin Wash tub
    Tea Bourbon coffee

    1. Genius idea to put your words in a spreadsheet! Even though I didn’t have the photograph in front of me, certain words made personal connections with me and those faded photographs I have in my grandmother’s photo album. Cucumber sandwiches, Gotta-get-back, berries off the vine, all’s-well-that-ends-well… oh, such delightful images of persona and a time faded by age. I would imagine that writing a fictional story in a time period we have not experienced would bring about additional challenges due to word choice and character voice. Great start with your list and great suggestion by Megan Frazer Blakemore. Thanks for jumping into today’s assignment – I think I might create my list in a spreadsheet, too!

    2. I’m glad you dove in and that this was useful to you. As the list grew, a picture emerged in my mind, which is exactly what you want your writing to do. Your list makes it clear how specific language is not only to individual characters, but also to a specific time and place.

    3. Linda, I love how your word hoard gives us such great images already, without having read a single sentence! Great work!

    4. It’s amazing what words can evoke! I’m picturing so much already–history, country, family, etc. Can’t wait to see what emerges!

  2. All kinds of variation with this activity. Thanks for sharing, Megan! Here’s a bit of what I wrote, drawing inspiration from a recent magazine article:

    The man in the trench coat greedily eyed the giraffe enclosure. Overhead, the gray sky dripped an occasional fat drop. The man had a camera, so he appreciated how the clouds muted the light, but the idea of rain irritated him. He walked towards the giraffe.

    The giraffe had been daydreaming about hay and alfalfa until she spied the man. His flapping fabric, the long black tube jutting from his hand: these two details especially put her on edge. She couldn’t say why. She felt the world squeeze in closer; thoughts of eating fled as her long tongue licked the air incessantly.

    The man dropped to a knee and raised the camera to frame a shot of the looming giraffe and its curling tongue.

    He didn’t notice another man, far to his right, alone at the corner of the giraffe pen. This man stood patient and still except for his eyes, which flicked from giraffe to picture taker. He noticed the giraffe’s behavior transform, her ease surrendering to stress. He made connections.

    1. Great perspective! I enjoyed how you switched characters and described the same experience from different viewpoints. I also like how you chose an animal’s viewpoint because I was struggling to imagine how an animal might feel/respond to stimuli. The third man in the final paragraph made me want to know him more. What was his connection? When had he transitioned from ease to stress. Thanks for engaging my interest this dreary, overcast morning.

      1. Brian, I agree with Tamara’s comments. I need to know more about the 3rd man? What is his role…what’s going to happen? Very intriguing!

    2. Brian, as I read this I couldn’t help but think of Katherine Applegate’s novel The One and Only Ivan. Thanks for sharing.

    3. Brian, I also like the switching perspective. I think the lists really helped to make the voices distinct, which is the biggest challenge of dual narrators. A he I’m so curious about the second man (the zookeeper, I presume). In this short little piece you’ve created nice tension,

  3. Thank you, Meghan,

    I really needed to do this too. I completed a first draft, but realized that I need a lot of work and much more character development. I was going to do a character map, like one I’d found on Caroline Pignat’s breakdown on her novel Egghead (p. 15, http://www.fitzhenry.ca/download/guides/eggheadtg.pdf )and you actually made me do it to a certain degree. I’m feeling much more in tune with my main characters right now. I love it, when phrases they would say come into your head. Still more work to do though! Will set up a template today. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Hanna – aliens, comics, quiet spots, darn, Adam!, It’s not impossible, try, help, forget, crash, where?, why? , please, dark, fear, my sweet girl, hums Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, secrets, You do it!, trees, flowers, sky, spit bugs on Indian paintbrush, birch groves,
    Adam – Ha!, chicken, scaredy-cat, I don’t care, come on, Let’s…, bikes, dirt bikes, hammers, kind to animals, stubborn, water guns, tricks, trouble, You’re not in charge of me, rabble-rouser
    Pluck – feisty, tough, persistent, empowered, silent, a chicken…


  4. I haven’t started yet, I have sacred writing time set aside for later today, but this is just what I needed. Just thinking about it cleared up something. I just realized a character would have said no to an invitation. Whoa! This changes everything. Well, not quite. 🙂 Thank you!

  5. Megan,

    First, thanks so much for devoting time to support Teachers Write. This is my second year and I’m much braver than last year and really enjoying my time working on the different activities. This year I was smart and set aside writing time each day (last year I was on vacation and it made it hard to fully participate). Love this word horde activity-I will use it with my 6th grade students this year if that’s ok:)

    I went with the character from my Tuesday quick-write a college freshman forcing herself to attend a club meeting because she’s lonely and knows she needs to make friends. At the meeting, she makes eye contact with a boy she’s admired in her class. I’m amazed at how quickly I was able to see such a change in her whole outlook from the beginning to when she and the boy connect….it’s really got me thinking about this character! (I realize that’s the whole point). Thanks again Megan for your help!

    Character Word Hoard

    Scared, lonely college freshman…..

    disgusted (with herself)
    craving connections

    Then-she makes eye contact with a boy she’s admired from afar….


    1. These are great. The list almost feels like a poem. I especially related to overthinking and overplanning. I don’t think there was a moment in college I didn’t analyze to death. To add to the list you could move beyond her emotions to objects or expressions. Like, frozen yogurt (which is the first thing I think of when I hear college freshman — memories of the fro yo machine in the dining hall).

      1. Thanks Megan, love the idea of expanding to objects/expressions. How about “freshman fifteen” cause of all that yogurt? ahh nostalgia!

  6. I may have to sit this one out because, despite the instructions/direction given, I have no idea whatsoever as to how to start. Also, I don’t have a current work in progress nor do I even have anything in mind so I would have to take Kate’s idea of taking someone from History or Science.

    1. Dan, it’s ok……if you want to put your toe into the pool anyway….try thinking of two very different personalities….maybe from your subject matter (I once had a college history final that required me to write a dialog of 5 historical personalities we studied that semester. dang! that was hard). Underneath each person, make a list of words the would say on July 4th…..or on the day that Haley’s Comet came into view or an event. They are bound to have different word lists based on their personalitites…more the way YOU see/know/interpret their personalities. This might turn into a WIP for you. I double dog dare ya. Come on, it’s fun too!

      1. This reminds me of the Hot Seat activity I learned years ago from the California Literature Project. POV and voice. Students take turns being the character and answering questions from their classmates. They need to assume their character. This is the same.

        Another activity that might help, if you are stuck is to think about a list of getting to know you questions and how your character would answer them. I’ve used this with fourth graders and it really helps them bring characters to life.

      2. Okay, I’ll take your double dog dare and do it. Thanks for the words of encouragement and support.

    2. I hope you don’t sit it out Dan! Kate’s idea was there for that very reason. It took me several re-reads and my interpretation of the activity may be different than others, but for me it is about getting out of my comfort zone. I hope to see what develops for you on this one!

    3. Hi Dan! Please have no stress about the activity. Basically it’s just creating a list of words that a character might think of and/or use. So, you could start by just writing down the first five words that come to your mind. Then try to create a character from those words. Then, with that character in mind, come up with five more words. Or save the activity for when you do have a project going on.

    4. Like you I was on the fence about this. Not sure I followed what I was supposed to do. I latched onto her suggestion to write using animals to talk. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is good.

    5. Dan, I was thinking about you later today after my first comment. I was listening to the end of a wonderful book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time by Mark Haddon. And, the main character describes how fiction makes him uncomfortable. It made me remember that as a dyed-in-the-wool fiction girl, I need to remember my wonderful, wonderful students that are non-fiction fans. Sometimes, I think they get overlooked in the reading/literature department. I think this activity could be adapted to non-fiction…..using quotes or even photos. I don’t know if you are a fiction or a non-fiction fan. But, if non-fiction is your thing—I’m telling you we need more great non-fiction for middle grade! Maybe your WIP could be nonfiction? Even more, I need bi-lingual great non-fiction for middle grade reluctant readers! Just giving you food for thought. I hope you don’t feel picked on! I mean to encourage.

      1. Linda, I definitely don’t feel picked on. I took your comments exactly as you intended. I appreciate all the encouragement and help I can get. Thanks for caring enough to offer your suggestions.

    6. The thing about these writing prompts is that they are really only suggestions for the day – it’s perfectly fine to take a look, say “That one doesn’t work for me right now,” and do something else. No need to take everything on the buffet. 🙂

  7. This idea came as a flash after I read the post–thank you so much for the idea. I’m writing a verse memoir of my time working with autistic students, and the word hoard is from the perspective of one of my students (I think–so hard to tell). I call it Meltdown.

    Color–flash–stop–noise –move–freeze–tilt–lean–spin–run, touch–move–faster!–burst–Noise. Spin–laugh–flap–pause–calm–SMELLS–NO! Run–graze–pound–faster–spinning–tearing–clawing–STATIC!–terror–blurring–screeching. NOISE!!! Blackness–strobing–screaming–arms–fear–soft–strong–NO!–smell?–flowers–rasping–slowing. Whisper–rocking–quiet–sobbing–desperate–no. Calming–safe–colors. Hands–eyes–words–moving–swaying–gentle–no? Blue–brown–white–smile–arms–pressure–good–smiles–alright?–yes?

    1. Lovely. Really lovely. Structurally I like that it’s separated by dashes rather than a list of words. It ups the urgency. I was curious if some of the words were in the narrators mind, and some coming from outside. Namely the things like “No!” or “yes?” — like the teacher is checking in on the student? In terms of the verse memoir, I wouldn’t change how it’s set up here, but in the next poem, you could have the teacher’s perspective of the incident, and the overlap would tell the full story. Good luck with this project!

    2. Beth, This is really well done. I feel like you really “got” those kiddos. It gave me great insight into what some of those kiddos go through with sensory overload. Well done.


  8. Hi everyone! Thanks to all who have jumped in already. I hope you have fun with this activity, and feel free to adapt it as you wish. If you don’t have a WIP, I like Kate’s idea of using a historical figure. You could also use a literary figure. If you really want to get into it, you could choose a mentor text for yourself, and go through and pull out some of the specific langauge of the book (recommendation: Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan). One key to remember is that it’s not necessarily what the character would consciously say or think, but the subconscious. Here’s an example from a WIP for me:
    gag me

    As soon as I wrote “clobber”, I thought, “This girl is a soccer player. A tough one.” The book is set in winter, so I made her a basketball player — something I didn’t know about her. When I saw lonely and ocean together, I realized it was the ocean that made her feel lonely, the vastness of it. Since this is the antagonist in the book, this was useful insight for me.

    I’m going to keep checking in this morning. My son has a track meet this afternoon, so I will be quieter for a bit, but then back on this evening. Good luck everyone!

  9. “Oh Darling,” she fairly shouted. “You should have been there, it was fabulous!” The cocktail party had been held at Christie’s Auction House. Anne wore a Pucci silk dress and Ferragamo loafers with gold buckles. Everyone who was anyone was attending. The Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts interspersed with some Johnsons and Swansons. Anne loved these people. She loved them for their experiences and book knowledge. She didn’t like them for their money, or so she said. That would be so NOCD. “If you have to ask how much, you probably don’t have it.” Her only complaint about the party was that they doled out champagne in a niggardly fashion. You’d think they didn’t have enough delivered, she’d complained.

    1. Whoo! We sure do know this woman after just a paragraph. I want to know even more — her backstory. I feel like she is an outsider, and that the people she likes wouldn’t have much patience for her. Nice work — and thank you for including your list.

  10. I’ve had a story idea swarming around in my head for years, but didn’t know where to start. I knew about the 2 girls based loosely on my mom and aunt, who are opposites in many ways, but formed a great friendship but they were moms at the time. But what if they met as little girls? That’s my premise, but I was stuck. I think I’m getting closer!

    So so cute
    …eh (so I guess she’s Canadian)
    pink is so so precious
    at my old house

    Darla- (this could change)
    Hide out
    Top secret

    What I found was I started to write descriptors , not words they would say, which is a different list! This has helped me to really visualize these two.

    1. I’m glad this was useful for you! I especially like the contrast between the two girls. I think if you keep going, you’ll find even more surprises. (Loved the Canadian comment, by the way.)

  11. Good morning! Thank you Megan for an awesome quick write. The Water Castle is in my TBR pile! I don’t have a work in progress but I have written some about my little Lola. She was named
    after Lola Montez, so I did a little research and a word hoard for each. I think this could turn into something
    more. We’ll see! Love the activity!

    born Eliza in Ireland
    spoiled half wild child
    Spanish dancer
    eloped at 16
    scented water
    business woman
    dusty existence
    entertained miners in the Gold Rush 1850 Sydney Australia
    rumored that she flared her skirt with no undergarments beneath
    determination and temper
    spider dance
    California Historical Landmark 292

    named Eve when we adopted her
    short legs
    hair standing on end
    growling playfully
    likes milk
    bares her teeth in bed
    historical namesake
    catches flies
    likes to sit in the driver’s seat
    hogs the bed
    scratches with her nails
    sweet and sour

    1. Whoah! These are great. So evocative. Scented water. Orphan. And I’m loving the connection between the names Eve and Eliza — how both ended up changing their names. Names are such a powerful tool for writers, and the fact that both of these “characters” have name changes is an fascinating connection.

    1. That’s great to hear, Kathleen. I hadn’t checked it out yet. What grade level does it seem best for (Megan you can answer with your target audience). My sons are 5th and 7th grade, and I teach 5th-8th. I’m a fan of great kid lit at all levels 🙂

  12. Old Dan
    – souvenir
    -time travel?
    -changeable reality
    -leather journal
    – loss
    -figure out
    -ace journalist
    – notebook

    1. Changeable reality? I like that! I also like that she thinks of “ace journalist” not simply “journalist”. I’m really trying to figure out how these two characters go together. It sounds like a mystery with a little sci fi — my favorite kind of story.

  13. This was a really great exercise to get me jumpstarted in writing today. I’ve used this with students before. Sometimes when I get together with my writing group, we go around and everyone says a word. After a few rounds, we write. It’s fun to see how different everyone’s piece is even using the same words. Thanks.

    1. I love seeing what people do with different words. Once I was in a group and one word was “honey.” It was astounding. From “Oh, honey” to “sweet as honey” to “thick like honey” to “honey-sticky” — one word, so many ideas. It’s good to do with students, too, because they see that there is no right or wrong to writing.

  14. I’ve been struggling with a story that I want to tell and creating a word hoard for my character helped me imagine the story a bit better. I think this will help me get moving with it.

    Janelle Grace (starting her junior year in high school)

    smart life-choice
    seriously necessary
    just thought I’d ask
    it’s fine
    What’s up?
    Would it be socially acceptable?
    don’t lip me
    but still
    so there’s that
    Can we just take a minute to talk about…
    so in other words
    not a huge fan
    just no
    that was golden
    gotta go
    just the simple fact of
    that would require
    don’t hate
    I would but
    any ideas
    pretty much
    so basically
    I’m super sorry

    1. It could be because I just turned in revisions on a YA novel with a girl who might have some of these same words on her list. What really speaks to me, though, is the specific way she gets at these ideas. There are very few single words, and it’s like she needs all those words to be sure of herself. You can see her really building a shark cage around herself with these words and phrases. She does not want to mess up. Good luck with this story.

  15. My list turned into phrases, more than just words. I looked at 4 characters from the memory writing we did earlier in the week. To tell the truth, they really were not characters, just names. This helps me see that I need to know a lot more about them if I want to develop it into an actual piece of writing. Thanks for the prompt.

    1. Yes — exactly. I know some people do interviews with their characters, but that doesn’t always work for me. For whatever reason, this sort of stream of consciousness works better for me.

  16. I loved this one! I tweeted and facebooked my thanks to you, Megan. It sounds like such a simple activity, but it was so revealing to compile these lists to get inside my characters’ heads. It meant a lot because I generally understand the characters well but, somehow, analyzing them like this in lists helped me understand some gaps in novel structure, which is important for this level of revisions.

    It also triggered great ideas for literary circle activities, unit reviews, writers workshop activities… Wow, talk about summer learning paying off.

    Here is a post I shared on my blog, with the writing activities I came up with and with reflections on how I applied it my novel. http://wp.me/p3B1JY-4Z

    I hope some of you will visit and comment on the blog post — I love the conversations we get started and community we build.

    Or, here are a couple of the word hoards for my characters:

    Norton – motorcycle
    No excuse
    Unforgiving of self

    Find him
    Do something
    Bring together
    Find resolution

    Liam (son)
    Only child

    1. So many of these lists read as poems. Beautiful. I also like seeing several characters together because it shows just how specific people are being. One question — is Norton the name of the motorcycle? Because that’s awesome.

      1. Thanks, Megan! It was interesting that almost all the words for my MC Carinne were about taking action — I guess I knew that, but the list made it really obvious. Yes, Norton is the bike… although it’s a brand name, not a clever pet name (although there’s a black dog named Valvoline, which I thought was cute). I love the poetry of these lists, too. I also loved that, as brainstormed, the list naturally followed the arc each char goes through (or should), so it was interesting to be able to compare where I think each starts vs where each ends.

        Since I’m posting, I’ll go ahead and add the hoards from the other 3 (more minor) characters.

        Not his fault
        Repay favor
        Sees all


        Heal old wounds
        Seek to understand

        Thanks again — this was useful and fun!

  17. I added a photo to my blog link if you’d like to compare my fictional descriptions to the photo.

    “On the bright side…”
    “Let’s see”
    “What if…”

    “Short chain”
    Eye roll
    Crossed arms
    Hardened heart
    Business suit
    Wire rimmed glasses

    1. That is a great photo! But even without it, I would’ve gotten the contrast between these two women. I especially like the inclusion of phrases in quotes. Just look at how different those common expressions are!

  18. No current works. I’ve been mulling over a potentional short story. Here’s to planting seeds…
    main character:
    good intentions
    river rocks
    cliff diving
    huffy bike
    baseball cards in spokes
    vibrations of the bridge
    pizza shop

    secondary character (love interest?)
    round face
    house on the corner
    bus stop
    holding hands

    1. Your answers really demonstrate the value of digging deep, especially with your main character. As I read I was like, “‘Good intentions,’ okay, sure, ‘disappointed’, aren’t we all. ‘River rocks’ – now you’ve got my attention.” And the lists keep getting better and better. I hope coming up with these words sparked some ideas for the story.

  19. Four characters from a WIP. Thank you for this strategy!

    conquer or die
    reputation rules
    winning. only winning.
    beloved by fans
    isolated by peers

    coach’s son
    dad’s project
    multitude of meaningless trophies
    keep sis in her place
    friendless fraud
    team leader, but not team player

    beautiful bulldog
    resentful, bitter, screw you all
    dad had his chance
    beyond reach?
    desperately lonely

    A shell
    fading beauty
    deep inner strength
    freed from need to be recognized
    quiet tenderness

    1. Great visuals! The two that captured my attention were “dad’s project” and “snarky”. I had an instantaneous connection with those words and love the potential they carry for capturing a timeline of emotion and depth. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Interesting, Greg. I like that you have a balance of individual details as well as how each character relates (or doesn’t relate) to others. It’s amazing how much you can tell from a list.

    3. These lists gave me goose bumps. I think it is the contradictions that exist in each character. Like the coach who is beloved by fans and isolated by fears. Then there is his son, who in some ways is what we come to expect from someone with a dad like that, but “keep sis in her place” made me stop. “Sis” is so loving and friendly, but “in her place” seems almost aggressive. And then he’s a leader, but not a team player — I want to see how he can do both. Compelling work!

      1. Thank you for the gracious feedback. The main theme of the story is the negtive impact competition can have on our relationships, and how to move towards collaboration.

  20. Elle

    teased about her name “I lean”
    country bumpkin
    tuckered out
    splashin’ in the creek
    feelin’ the grass between my toes

    1. My mom’s name is Eileen, and she was indeed teased. Her maiden name didn’t help, but I guess I shouldn’t publish my mom’s maiden name. You have some of my favorite words on these lists — prim and lanky. These are words that do a lot of work. I’m curious how these two will come together.

  21. The hare was very skeptical, thinking there is no way the turtle will get here on time and actually be punctual. The turtle arrived shortly after the hare had finished his thoughts. They greeted each other tepidly. The turtle was very concise in his explanation of how he had got there in time. The turtle asked.” Where are we going for dinner?” With a nod and some heavy breaths the hare went off on a philosophical tangent about the pros and cons of various places. The turtle took a nap.

    1. I think you found another way to adapt this for students. Have them come up with words for characters from folk tales, fairy tales, or fables, and then write a story. What fun!

  22. I teach third grade and I love the idea of doing this with a figure from history or science. For example, we read about young Albert Einstein, and I was thinking about what a cartoon character of a third grade Einstein would say if he were in our class.
    At school – bored, misbehaving, fidgeting, unpopular, gets up from seat to go get another book from his backpack.
    Mutters, “Why would I bother with that stupid, baby homework?”
    Dryly looks up at teacher when called upon, doesn’t deign to answer question. After an inappropriately long time, mentions the teacher’s calculation mistake
    Pacifist. Only time he appears to agree with the teacher is when students fight.
    “Stop fighting! I can’t stay and watch you morons. I’m going to practice my violin (name some difficult piece).” He walks out of the classroom and off campus.
    Another unpopular student walks up to him. He avoids talking to him. “Sorry, I need to talk to Stephen Hawking. I have an idea about how black holes work.”
    At the library, “That sucks, I’ve maxed out my library card again.” Or, “you’ll have to order those for me from MIT.”

  23. Thank you to those who “chimed in” earlier. Your comments helped me to not only understand the challenge but also to realize that I am able to do this. These two individuals have a deep love for the same woman. One is her father (Jean-Claude), the other is the man who wants to marry her (Brendan). The daughter was brought up in a very traditional French-Canadian household of the 1930’s and 40’s. Brendan has asked Genevieve to marry him. Although she has agreed, she knows that her parents will not approve. Brendan has two strikes going against him, One, he’s not French and two, he’s Irish. What appears below are the thoughts that Jean-Claude and Brendan have about each other as they meet for the first time.

    Always drunk
    Always fighting
    Will never be good enough for my daughter
    Won’t amount to anything
    Skin and bones

    Lacks empathy
    Unwilling to listen
    High brow

    1. I love using this exercise to reflect what the characters think of each other. Great idea and great words.

    2. This is great, and I like how you focused on what they think about each other. I have this kooky idea of the two of them sitting in a writing workshop doing the exercise I originally learned from Monica Wood, and passive aggressively putting out these words. Some of the words they think about the other person also reveal themselves — “high brow” for example reveals perhaps a slight lack of confidence.

  24. Wallflower
    Sitting pretty
    Ex wife

    1. What a wonderful ebb and flow of transition with this list! The first few words formed a picture of an outcast, a gal who wants to belong, but is set to the side by her physical attributes. Then the focus turns inward and her beauty is revealed with “giving” and “listener” and all the positive relationships she actually has. When I read “ex-wife” it was as if someone had splashed cold water on my face! Here I was expecting a beautiful resolution to her prior turmoil only to be catapulted in the opposite direction, speeding head first in a downward spiral with “lost” and “misunderstood”. This list alone could provide a skeletal timeline to this woman’s life experiences. Very engaging! Thanks for sharing!

    2. Sometimes what’ s most revealing is the juxtaposition of words. In this list there’s a strong of descriptors for peopl and then “Product” — whoah. Is this character seeing hereself as a product? Does she see others that way? What an intriguing personality possibility.

  25. This is a really useful exercise – thank you! I think I’ll keep adding and use it to track my characters. It gives me a little insight to which characters I have clearly developed in my own mind, and which I have not.

    Self consciousness

    Principal Donner

    Mrs. Redding

    1. Definitely keep adding to the list, but go back to it, too. Because you might forget one idea that you had, and the list will jar your memory. I really want to know Owen, Franny, and Christopher based on their lists. What cool kids. I want to hear their stories. There’s overlap, but also room for conflict, which I think is a great recipe for character interaction.

  26. Sammy Sporatski (Main Character):
    Sports Recap
    science poster project
    bratty sister
    lacrosse shorts
    college team shirts
    chicken wing pizza

    Jared Parks:
    beating Sammy at everything
    tons of friends
    taking short cuts (is the only way)
    athlete – best in our grade
    all the teachers love me

    soccer – only girl that plays with the boys
    straight “A’s”
    best friends
    rule follower

    1. I started maing a Venn diagram of these in my head, showing how these kids overlapped. The detail that caught my eye was that Christy was the only girl that plays soccer with the boys. Since so many girls play soccer now, I wondered why she played with the boys. I also liked “chicken wing pizza.” I’m imagining Sammy, Jared, and Christy in English class listing off words, and Sammy is just hungry.

  27. This was a lot of fun & I think would be very powerful for young readers and writers – thank you!
    Zoe – (age 9) curious, bossy, insecure, tender, precocious, awkward, funny, insightful, well read, timid, loud & sometimes silly

    Zelda – (Yorkipoo puppy 1 yr. old) playful, nurturing, obedient, energetic, bouncy, quiet, valedictorian of dogs

    Max – (age 9) calm, empathetic, poised, analytic, comfortable, lover of puns, coordinated, clear headed, good natured, honest

    1. I hope that it is Zelda who thinks of herself as the valedictorian of dogs! That would be the best dog personality. I like the contraditions in Zoe’s words: bossy, insecure, tender, precocious, awkward. You can just see this girl coming into herself.

  28. Such an excellent writing activity, Megan. I gave it a try for three characters from the 70s who are making a big family move across the country.

    Sassy Sweet Teenage Attitude Scared Uncertain Selfish Sociable Creative Smart Annoyed Depressed Friendly Talented Unhappy Vibrant Naive Rebellious Active Looking for acceptance and approval

    Stern Tough Caring Ambitious Anxious Determined Hardworking Independent Overbearing Approachable Resourceful Strict Impatient Restless Skeptical Tough German

    Determined Caring Unhealthy Courageous Hardworking Hopeful Optimistic Personable Patriotic Ambitious Adventurous Encouraging Strong Italian

    Spoiled Nice Talented Youthful Honor Roll Wanting to please Scared Helpful Childish Uncertain Book Smart Quiet Innocent Clingy Gullible Brainy

    Thank you for helping me to learn and grow. ~Suzy Leopold

    1. From these words, you can see how family dynamics play out, and how people, especially siblings, can define themselves in opposition to one another. I can picture Jill and Sue thinking less about how they are, and more about how they are different than the other. (That sentence was awkward, but basically saying that each girl knows herself by understanding how she is different from her sister). Good luck with this!

  29. Decluttering
    Dust it off
    Clean it up
    Arrange on the driveway
    Rearrange, straighten
    Wait patiently
    Friends stop by
    A little extra money!
    Yard Sale

    1. I just had a yard sale, so this hits home! This turns into a poem, of course, and it gains speed as it goes. I like how the list took shape for you like that.

  30. July 13, 2014: Assignment 3 Teacher’s Write
    This writing exercise made me think of myself and my two sons on a day when we were visiting friends and family in NH.
    Main Character (Mom)
    Happy, sun-worshiper, swimmer, loves to look at old family pictures, bacon pizza
    Child 1
    Video games, tablet, quiet, Wendy’s, bugs bothering him, private talks with family, leader of the cousins
    Child 2
    Exercise room machines, walks around the circle, bothering child 1, power naps, running outside on a sunny day

    1. I just started Half A Chance by Cynthia Lord, and these lists remind me of that story. What a full world a summer home can be — casual, familiar, but new, and exciting. You’ve remembered such specific details (“bacon pizza” as oppsoed to just “pizza”, the bugs, the old family pictures) — if you haven’t already written more with this setting, it definitely seems to be speaking to you, and I’d encourage you to explore it in either fiction or nonfiction form.

  31. Character from the past -“K.D.”
    convent school
    school marm
    street wise
    women’s rights
    feminine charm