Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A School Visit Filled with Characters

Today I was lucky enough to spend some time with Mrs. Poulton's fabulous Language Arts class at Harrington Middle School in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. I love school visits. I love spending time with students. I love chatting about writing. I love hearing what students think about YA novels. And I love teaching a middle school writing lesson again. 

This morning we chatted about characters. Characters are my absolute favorite part of the novel process and all my stories begin with a single character idea. I adore character creation, from the first tiny seek of an idea to the traits to the name to the actual person. And yes, they are real to me. Seriously. :) 

We spent a ton of time talking about how to create memorable characters. Then, I shared one of my character secrets - magazines. When I first begin brainstorming my next novel and thinking about characters, I grab a ton of magazines and start flipping until I find a model, celebrity, or photo that embodies the mental picture I developed. Then, I cut out the pic and glue it into my novel notebook, so I can better visualize my character. From there, I begin writing out character interviews, a trait list, and name him or her. 

After my chat, the students began cutting out pics and jotting down some traits. It was amazing how finding a photo sparked entire stories. I was so impressed with their ideas and imagination. In fact, I can't wait to read their finished stories. 

How do you create memorable characters? And if you're not an author or writer, who is your fave character of all time - television, movie, or book? 

Thanks, Mrs. Poulton's class! I had a blast. 

Have a fabulous week and weekend, everyone! ;) 


Big Plain V said...

I cut them out of really thin paper and glue them into the mold that my plot demands. If any hangs over the edge, I slice it away with an exacto knife.

Not really. But I am a total 'plot-driven' guy.

Keri Mikulski said...

Love it, Big Plain V! We're opposites.. I'm a total character driven girl. :)

PJ Hoover said...

I am addicted to character worksheets, though still I end up needing to improve my characters even after that. But I love when I do make a character change and it works!

beth said...

Sounds like so much fun!!! I love talking about writing with kids.

As for creating characters--I just think of what they want most in the world, and do everything to make it difficult for them to get it :)

Keri Mikulski said...

Hi, PJ! I know exactly what you mean.. As I write, I'm always changing things and they develop as the story does. :)

Hi, Beth! What a great idea! Thanks. :)

Sandy - if you're reading this make sure to tell the students that one - but, I'm sure you already have because you're amazing. :)

~Virginia~ said...

i'm a sucker for amelia bedelia. :)

Marianne Arkins said...

I create collages, too, only I don't have any magazines (nor really any catalogs), so I do it on the computer -- Power Point -- and use it as my wallpaper while I write. I can just minimize the screen if I need inspiration!

How cool that you were able to inspire a whole new generation of writers. :-)

adrienne said...

What a cool exercise! I would love to see some of the things they came up with.

Keri Mikulski said...

Hi, Virginia! Great character! :)

Hi, Marianne! It was a blast. It's nice to be back in front of a middle school classroom. BTW, I love your collages. :)

Hi, Adrienne! They started with character ideas and soared. Most had complete stories sketched out before I left. It was a blast!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

That sounds like so much fun, and believe it or not, I just had the idea to go to the magazines for the characters for my next book!

Great minds... ;)
P.S. How are you enjoying Audrey Wait? I LOVED it!

Anonymous said...

I haven't really found my groove yet re creating characters. I've started with a pic before, too, and done extensive character sketches. Then other times, I've started with a vague idea and written my way to knowing who the character is (which usually means I have to revise the early stuff!). Maybe I have found my groove, and it's "eclectic" character creation. Whatever works, I suppose. ;)

Keri Mikulski said...

Hi, Alyssa! Great minds do think alike. :) Yes, I'm loving AUDREY WAIT.. Great book. :) And great voice.

Hi, Shari! I know what you mean about finding your groove.. :) I feel like I'm finally getting there with the writing process.

Beth Kephart said...

What a really fantastic way to spend a day. This post makes me happy!