Compose a sketch of two characters (approximately 500 words each minimum; don’t limit yourself if you are really interested in the character). Try to reveal the characters through observed details rather than explicit revelations (Tony was sad. versus Tony kept looking down at his Doc Martens, and once he did look up, his eyes were red but had been wiped clean of any moisture.). While it is important to know as much as you can about the characters you create, try to reveal what you know purposefully.
Too, you will have to decide what constitutes a character for you as a writer:
- Do characters have to be rounded and realistic, their traits resembling those of real humans, someone you might meet in your daily life, maybe someone you really do know or even yourself? Can characters be flat or static, consisting of only one trait that dominates them?
- Do you wish to characterize a historical figure? How much research do you need to conduct to be accurate ?
- Can the idea of character be interpreted more loosely through the lens of postmodernism to include persons, places, things, and abstract ideas? Do these characters to be anthropomorphized (made to act like humans)?
- Are your characters fabulistic, fantastic, or otherworldly? Do you need to invent the setting for these characters in addition to the characters themselves?
This prompt will be scaffolded with the prompt on Thursday, so please complete it to the best of your ability in the time allotted.
Two old adages come to mind as good reasoning for this prompt: “Failing to plan is planning to fail” and Doug Buffone’s the five Ps “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” While a character sketch or vignette can be a stand-alone piece of creative writing, they are more commonly used as a pre-writing genre to formulate ideas for a piece without the pressure of actually working on that piece.
As you have probably noticed, the prompts we’ve worked on so far form the basis for finished pieces, but the prompts themselves do not necessarily lead to finished works without work, sculpting, and revision. One difference you may find between writing classes and creative writing classes is that in writing classes, it is expected of you to know something or do research on your topoi before you write, but in creative writing classes, the genius myth makes it appear that writing is an event where genius pours forth onto the page as if from the author’s secret wellspring of creativity. We like to believe that this kind of genius exists in a vacuum, but really it is the product of a lamination of complex and unique forces or experiences acting on a writer in a particular moment. One adage you might find bandied about in creative writing is “write what you know,” but do you know what you think you know, and even if you respond affirmatively, how did you come to know it?
One of the biggest flaws I’ve noticed among aspiring creative writers, including myself, is they have not done enough research (be it reading, experiential, reflecting, etc.). Student writers work so hard to create a realistic, rounded character, and then allow them to behave in a way that is unjustified by the textual evidence or exist in a place that is undefined. This is not an issue of knowing exactly how a character will behave and everything they will do in a given narrative because, as I’ve said in class, creative writing isn’t worth anything if discoveries are not made. This has more to do with being able to embody a subjectivity as best you can and to know why Tony can’t reveal that he’s crying, even if it never comes up in the narrative.
Finish this part of the prompt by Thursday, February 9, then see part 2.