Friday, August 13, 2010

Inhabiting Your Characters

Last month I attended a workshop by B. Lynn Goodwin, who helped us to inhabit a character by putting ourselves in his/her shoes - literally. "Stand up and walk from your character," she instructed. "Notice how your character moves differently from you. Does s/he lead form the chin or the stomach or toes? How does s/he feel as s/he walks?"

Journaling about your character is another way to access who s/he is. After a free write we were instructed to ask questions of our character, or allow the character to ask questions of us, the writers. Then pick one question to expand upon.

Here's what I began with, followed by my questions and more free writing:
 My name is Azalea. Sometimes my grandma calls me Azel-ya, making it sound sloppy, and my mom gets mad. Then Mama says each syllable, crisp as a cracker without the peanut butter on top. I live with them on the second floor flat. Grandma picks me up from school and we take two buses across town, then walk the last few blocks home.
  • How old is the girl?
  • What happens to her (plot)?
  • Who are the other characters?
  • What does my world look like, inside and out?
Sometimes I skip. Past the corner store where Mr. Guthrie sweeps the front stoop in his white apron. Past the library lit up like a dollhouse at night, through windows cozy and warm. On lucky, days, Junior and Giana are playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, or picking up jacks with a bouncy ball. Then I race down the hall, zigzagging  with the crazy eight shapes on the old carpet, and burst into the room I share with Mama to grab the marbles I keep in the velvet drawstring bag beneath my bed. And its back outside before Mama calls out the window for suppertime.
 Dear Reader:
What characters are you rendering on the page? How do you make them come alive?

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Thanks so much for sharing this with your readers, Nicole. I love your character's energy in this writing, and I'd love to read the responses readers send to your question.

If anyone is interested in learning more about my workshops, visit ttp:// or e-mail Lgood67334 AT comcast DOT net.

Thanks for sharing this, Nicole.

Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

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