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Listening to Other Voices: CREATIVE WRITING

Writing a Character Sketch

Jen Ward

on 2 February 2015

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Transcript of Listening to Other Voices: CREATIVE WRITING

Write about your character in 3rd person (outside perspective)
Crafting a Character
Time to Interview Your Character
Listening to Other Voices
Developing a Character
Writers will often spend time developing a character before ever sitting down to write a story. By developing the character first, writers have time to understand not only what a character looks like, but also what she or he might say, do, or think. Developing the character first, helps give that character a voice. Since we're spending some time thinking about how to develop voice, how about we do the same thing. Let's create a character!
First you will need to think about a character that you might use later in a short story or play. Begin to flesh out your character in your Notebook. Consider the following questions:

What does your character look like (hair color and length, height, build, clothing style, eyes, distinguishing physical features)? Is your character human or a fantasy creature?
How does your character move? Does he stride confidently across the room or does she slouch in her chair?
What does your character sound like?
What is the age of your character?
What gender is your character?
What is your character's name? What does that name say about him or her?
What are your character's favorite hobbies?
What does your character do most days?
Does your character have a catch phrase, something he or she says a lot?
Who are the important people in your character's life?
What is your character passionate about? What does he or she believe?
Now it is time to interview your character! Pair up with another person in the room. You are going to interview your partner, but your partner must answer as the character he or she just created. As an interviewer, you job is to help your partner better understand his or her character. Ask questions that will get your partner thinking about more details for their character.

Questions you might consider asking:
What is your job?
What do you do for fun?
What is your greatest weakness? Your greatest strength?
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your life?
Why should I trust you?
What do you like about yourself? What do you dislike?
What is your goal in life?
This activity will help you to flesh out both the physical details of a character as well as the internal thoughts and feelings of your character. You will be giving voice to a character. You will need to use figurative language and sensory details to create a powerful description of your character. However, this is not a short story (yet). Instead, we are creating a character sketch for a character you might use later on.
Your Assignment:
Write about your character in 1st person (inside perspective)
Outside Perspective:
Next, you will begin writing the main part of your character sketch. Your character sketch will be divided into two main parts. First you will need to write between 1-2 paragraphs about your character from an outsider's objective perspective. You can only write about what an outside observer might see. This means that you cannot write about what a character is thinking or feeling. Instead, you will need to describe the character's physical traits (appearance, stature, height, etc.), the setting, and the action that your character is engaged in. Imagine your character is performing some action, maybe putting on lipstick or raking leaves. Place your character in a setting. Then, describe what the character looks like and what they are doing. You do not want to give a list of specific details; instead, you need to be as descriptive as possible.

Slowly, Sarah lowers herself onto the scratched wood of the kitchen stool, gummy with years of polish. Her knees creak into the stillness of the room as she pulls the stool and her body closer to the kitchen counter. Without really reading the pages of the worn, traditional German cookbook in front of her, Sarah lets her fingers gently trail over the edges of the yellowed pages as she absently flips through the book. She quickly comes to a dog-eared page. The recipe on the page is lightly stained with the remnants of recipes gone by. At last she looks directly at the page, noticing the faint hand-written notes scrawled in German into the margins of the recipe for roulauden. She reaches up to her face and quickly pushes a stray strand of salt and pepper hair back into the tight bun at the nape of her neck. Without a moment of hesitation, she grabs the small yellow onion and begins to thinly slice it just as her mother’s recipe directs her.
Inside Perspective
The second portion of your character sketch will be written from the perspective of the main character. This means that you will need to get into your character's head. You will need to write between 2-3 well crafted paragraphs that describe in vivid detail what your character is thinking and feeling. You will rewrite your Outside Perspective paragraph in first person. This portion of the character sketch should include the main character speaking. Imagine what the character is thinking about in the scene that you describe in the Outside Perspective portion of the character sketch and re-write that scene from the character's point of view.


It is hard to believe that she is gone. Mother. The heart and soul of this family. Although I suppose that it is equally as unbelievable to think that she made it this long. One hundred and three years old. A living legend. She carried with her the history of many lifetimes. All of it now rests in the nearly frozen ground of Liebehaus Cemetery, with no one to hear her sing or laugh, or listen to her stories of the old country.
“Why didn’t I pay more attention to her directions!?” I yell out to the empty kitchen. She was always cooking, and now I can’t even remember all those directions she repeated to me for making Dad’s favorite German dish: roulauden. “Why didn’t I listen?”
I slump in my stool pulled close to the kitchen counter, alone and crushed. But it is in that moment that I hear a voice, her voice. It is as if I feel her near me, with me. “Mom?”
I am possessed by her. Brushing the strand of away from my face with my pinkie finger as she would have done, I grab a small onion and begin to slice, as if I knew what to do. But I don’t. She does. She is my guide, leading me, trying to connect me. But connect me to what?
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