Teachers Write 7.31.18 Tuesday Quick-Write with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Good morning! Our Tuesday Quick-Write guest author today is the wonderful Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich! She’s the author of 8th Grade Superzero, a Notable Book for a Global Society, as well as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. She is a co-author of the NAACP Image Award-nominated Two Naomis, its sequel, Naomis Too, and the forthcoming Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow, as well as the picture book biography Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins. Olugbemisola is the editor of The Hero Next Door, a 2019 anthology from We Need Diverse Books. A member of The Brown Bookshelf and the Advisory Board of We Need Diverse Books, Olugbemisola lives with her family in New York City. Visit her online at olugbemisolabooks.com.

Often when we think of writing stories, we think primarily of the character and setting — the who and the where/what.  One of the ways to deepen a story and write three-dimensional characters is to be thoughtful about their emotional life and how they express those emotions in different situations. I often use a variation of this exercise as a writing game with small groups; it’s fun to see how differently we may think about demonstrations of thought and feeling!
Your Assignment: Write a scene using the following:
1) Create a character (include their age, race and ethnicity, gender)
2) and now…using that same character, mix and match setting and emotion.
a) Put them in a SHOPPING MALL, and the emotion is FRUSTRATION
b) in a CLASSROOM, and the emotion is JOY
c) at the BEACH, and the emotion is FURY
d) in a New York City subway station, and the emotion is EXHILARATION
e) in a KITCHEN, and the emotion is SURPRISE
f) in a PARK, and the emotion is DISGUST
g) in a CAR, and the emotion is SHAME
h) on a FARM, and the emotion is ENVY
i) at a BASKETBALL GAME, and the emotion is ANXIETY
j) in a SWIMMING POOL, and the emotion is LOVE
For each of these, be thoughtful about the ways that your character’s traits and the setting impact their actions, how the same trait is expressed differently, depending on the situation. Get to know your character even more, and most of all, have fun! And feel free to share a bit of what you wrote in the comments today if you’d like.

17 Replies on “Teachers Write 7.31.18 Tuesday Quick-Write with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

  1. At the Beach
    Posted on July 31, 2018 by showgem

    Jessica is 10 years old and she is biracial. Her Dad is black and her mom is white. She and her best friend Tara are spending time at the beach. This is the first time she has gone to the beach with Tara. Tara is an amazing swimmer. She is not afraid of the huge waves and drifting out into the ocean.

    Jessica’s parents never spent any time teaching her how to swim. She is fine in a pool, but she is scared of the ocean. Tara kept calling out to her to get deeper in the ocean, with a boogie board, but Jessica kept refusing. She was scared and Tara kept trying to get her deeper into the ocean which was making Jessica more and more furious. She didn’t want to tell Jessica that she was afraid. Tara told her she would be fine and she would help her. Jessica, felt ashamed that she didn’t have the courage to go further out into the ocean. She was trying to get over her anger. Tara wanted to play with her in the water, but Jessica would not budge. She could tell that Tara was getting upset that she wouldn’t hang out with her in the deeper water.

    Jessica didn’t want Tara to be disappointed in her. She went over to her and told her that she wasn’t a good swimmer and she was afraid. Tara told her I will hold onto you. You will be okay. Jessica decided to try it out. Tara had her hand on her the whole time while the wave hit them and brought them back to the beach. She was a bit scared, but she thought it was a lot of fun. She thanked Tara for being brave and helping her overcome her fears

    1. That’s so real, the fear mixed with anger. And the desire to please someone else is such a strong motivator — you get straight to some powerful emotions here, great work!

  2. This reminds me a bit of an activity I do with my classes where I have different coloured popsicle sticks. Each colour is a different story element (e.g. setting, character, problem). The students pick a stick from each colour and use them to come up with a story. What I like about this prompt is the focus on the emotional life of the character. It takes the writing deeper. Thanks so much for this idea!

    Oh my God, it only comes in white?! It had looked more cream on the Youtube video Georgia had watched that morning. The video that had urged her to get to the mall as quickly as she could to buy her own “amazingly awesome outfit!” She should have known better. Being pale and freckled with red hair and green eyes meant that Georgia didn’t match most of the tanned California beauties on Youtube. She had been disappointed before. After all the effort convincing her mom to take her to the mall and convincing her friends to come, here they were, her friends looking “amazingly awesome” and Georgia empty handed. She frowned.

    “I don’t love it,” she said. “It’s so baggy. I was expecting something more stylish. But… you guys can get it… if you want.” Georgia looked at her friends, watching their faces change from glowing smiles to doubtful frowns. If she couldn’t get the outfit, why should they?

    1. This is such a relatable scene! I can feel Georgia’s heart sink, and that kind of tension in the situation with her friends is perfect. Thanks for this! It reads like a scene from a novel…maybe it’s the start of one?

  3. Car and Shame

    Noah knew he was going to get it as soon as the car door closed. He’d seen the look on his mom’s face when the principal told her what he’d done and as she marched him out of school to start his suspension. It felt like there was a rock sitting at the bottom of his stomach. He was surprised when she didn’t start yelling right away. She didn’t even look at him as she started the car.

    “I thought I raised you better than that,” she said, her voice flat. It was much worse than yelling, and he deserved it.

    1. Ugh, poor Noah. I love the metaphor of the rock in the bottom of his stomach. His reaction to his mom’s flat voice, his feeling that he “deserves” what he gets…pitch perfect!

  4. Thank you for the great prompt. I picked the farm and envy. My character, Samena, is adopted, and Polynesian. This was harder than I thought, but fun!

    Driving down the lane to the farm, Samena rolled down the windows of the car. The pasture was suffused with a mysterious golden light. Now that she had moved away, she longed to pick raspberries or walk the trail to the river. She wanted to feel all those little feelings and emotions that only yourself can pinpoint. The feeling of another summer nears its end. Or the day after Christmas. If only she hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up and move away. She wished to be back, carefree, and trying to skip rocks into the river.

  5. Dear Olugbemisola,
    Thanks for the great information. Can’t wait to try this with my library students.

  6. I’m also really looking forward to trying these writing challenges that I unexpectedly didn’t make time for today. I was going to put in a half day at school, but as I attempted to reassemble after summer cleaning, I uncovered so many great stories and characters (even series) that were gong MIA (not your Naomi’s because every student whose hand I put one in wants another). So I’m creating a new space to better display Yasmin / Nikki & Deja and others so students don’t overlook them for the characters that get such heavy promo.
    Reading your books and following your social media posts have precipitated even more efforts on my part — especially as the demographics of my schools change. Every kid deserves multiple potential mirrors and all of us readers need to open the windows and doors wider on a regular basis.
    It’s showing those human emotions that transcend our differences that I hope we can better offer on our shelves and encourage those student voices.

    1. Thank you so much for doing this work, Barb! It means so much to your students, and ultimately helps to bring about positive change in this world. Hope you get to get a little writing in another day!

  7. This was such a fun exercise! I would love to try this with students where we write together placing existing characters we’ve read about in new situations with new emotions we haven’t seen from them. This will hopefully help characters feel more real and relevant to students. Thank you so much for sharing and for your work Olugbemisola!

  8. Michelle! What a fantastic idea–I LOVE it! Kind of offers a “safe” space for real experimentation and creative thinking. Thanks so much for sharing.