Spring into Summer, wheee! And more demand from your creative writing students, whether it's a new class or the rag-tag end of your year. This character writing exercise is fun AND enlightening.
Prepare a set of word cards, each with a single character trait. Explain before you distribute one to each student:
We want to bring characters alive by showing them to the reader. The following descriptions are excellent character traits, BUT, how would the reader know without being told in a summary word by you that a person is like this?
Without using the word or phrase on the card, write a half page showing a character with this trait -- include dialogue, make it a scene. Afterwards we'll read out and see if the class can determine the original trait.
Words for the cards: vain; shy; laid back; needs to be centre of attention; brave; a poseur; principled; cynical about life; scatter-brained; ambitious... (Tutor, go on and add as many as you need).
Reading out usually includes lots of laughter as a troupe of exaggerated characters peoples the room, and each writer gets the fun of playing quiz master to his/her character sketch.
Characterization Challenge is in Section III, Craft. In Creative Writing; the Matrix paperback it's Exercise 74. In Creative Writing: the Quick Matrix e-book it's Exercise 70. It follows a Mini-Lecture: Characterization which includes a handout and explains the importance of SHOWING over telling.
Got a short-course summer school coming up? As well as the Matrix books there are more teaching ideas and exercises in the archived posts of this blog. Just scroll down the Labels list and call up Exercises or Class Planning.
Happy teaching, happy creating! I'll be back before September start of term, happy summer,