Fiction is driven by one central idea: a conflict that leads to a change. Burroway describes it this way: “In order to engage the attention and emotions of your reader you will need, even before you begin to write, to invent, intuit, or decide what each of your characters wants.”
Complete all three of the following prompts from your textbook. Your purpose here is not to write finished and perfectly polished pieces, but to practice creating character in your writing; however, the slightly informal nature of this assignment should not be interpreted as permission to write inattentively. Creative works you complete for the journal activity may be significantly expanded and revised for later work.
Save your journal entry as a Microsoft Word file and submit it using the appropriate link in the Session 4 folder. Follow all the directions, adhere to the rules of Standard Written English, and submit by the deadline.
1. Fill out this sentence: (name) is a (adjective) (number)–year-old (noun) who wants . Here’s an example: “Jeremy Glazer is a belligerent 17-year-old basketball player who wants respect.” Respect, an abstraction in this case, represents what Jeremy deeply desires. As a writer you need to ask what, in the particular situation he finds himself in, would represent respect for Jeremy? Being placed on the starting team? Being included in the locker room banter? Or is it his father’s acknowledgement that basketball matters as much as his grades?
After writing your sentence, write three paragraphs describing the character, the scene, and something specific that your character desires that, if achieved, would help them fulfill their abstract desire. Burroway reminds us that “what a character wants deeply (and which can be expressed in an abstraction) will always have a particular manifestation in a particular situation and can be expressed in a way that leads to image and action.”
2. The singer and songwriter Bob Dylan famously found himself harassed by people looking through his garbage in order to understand his life in greater depth. Garbology, as it is now known, is the study of society or culture by examining and analyzing its refuse—essentially, the theory is that people are characterized by the objects they choose, own, wear, and carry with them, they are also revealed in what they throw away. Write a character sketch of at least two paragraphs in which you describe the individualized contents of your character’s wastebasket. Describe these items in depth, perhaps providing reasons or hints why your character might have wanted to throw them away.
3. Write a free verse (i.e., unrhymed) poem of at least 25 lines about the young person you can still see within an old person. Pay particular attention to where you break the lines and try to identify potentially interesting line breaks. For example, look to these examples from Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Facing It”:
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse He’s lost his right arm
but when she walks away inside the stone.
the names stay on the wall.
(The lines here seem to spill down; there’s a bit of tension, too: (Notice the way the second line changes
when she walks away… what? The next line reveals.) the meaning of the first.; it’s a surprise.)