Drama/literacy: Creative writing workshop: Class act

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By Teresa Saunderseducation journalist and children’s writer

Combine drama and literacy to help children develop their story characters’ traits and behaviour in creative writing

Class act

The second feature in our new creative writing workshop series, looks at characters’ actions and mannerisms – how they behave, how they react to, and interact with, other characters.

In the Russian traditional tale, ‘The Firebird’, the large grey wolf slinks and saunters his arrogant way through the story, but ends up as the real hero. In all his stories, the loveable Caribbean character, Anansi, resorts to trickery and practical jokes and manages to outwit all the other animals in the forest, and in one of our greatest fairy stories of all, the cruel and wicked behaviour of the stepmother, provides a heart-wrenching contrast to that of the kind and tender Cinderella. It is by their actions and mannerisms, that all of our great story characters are brought to life. They set and control the plot’s pace and rhythm. They create surprise and provoke the unexpected, and constantly challenge the readers imagination, ingenuity and curiosity.

The actions and behaviour of many story characters that children encounter, adhere to a familiar pattern, and are, all too frequently, expressed in a predictable style of story language – heroes are strong and kind; villains behave badly and are weak and cruel. Help them to look beyond this obvious vocabulary, and to think about how to describe the behaviour, actions and mannerisms of their own story characters. Exciting activities which investigate the impact of powerful verbs, lively adverbs and colourful metaphors or similes, will refresh their natural enthusiasm for story writing, and will add significantly to their store of expressive and descriptive language.

Getting started

To create lively, original characters of their own, the children will need to explore the different ways that people act, and react, to certain situations or events. Don’t forget the importance of movements, body language, facial and physical gestures.

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