Telling tales 1: Characterisation
8 December 2011Add to My Folder
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The first in a six-part story-writing workshop by the new Literacy Time PLUS Writer-in-residence, Antony Lishak. Part 1 suggests how to create interesting story characters.
These teachers’ notes refer to the guided reading leaflet, ‘How to tell tales 1’.
This is the first in a six-part story-writing workshop by the new Literacy Time PLUS Writer-in-residence, Antony Lishak. Each leaflet will cover a different aspect of story writing. With the author speaking directly to the children, practical examples and activities to try, these will build into a comprehensive handbook for young writers. Part 1 suggests how to create interesting story characters.
- Explain that this leaflet is the first in a series that will help them write and tell more interesting stories. It focuses on creating characters.
- Ask the children to say who their favourite story character is. Why?
Reading the leaflet
- Read the leaflet together, or give the children time to read it quietly to themselves before discussing it.
- Refer back to the leaflet whenever you are writing stories.
- What style is the leaflet written in? It is an instruction text, spoken by the author in the first person, addressing the reader directly. What impact does this have?
The How to tell tales series
1 (July 09): Characterisation. 2 (September 09): Grabbing your reader’s attention on the very first line. 3 (November 09): Painting pictures with words – descriptive writing. 4 (January 2010): The pivotal moment of a story. 5 (March 2010): Playing with time – sequencing. 6 (May 2010): The redrafting process – the story of the story.
Using the character cards
- When creating a character, encourage the children to ask themselves lots of questions about them so they know as many details about them as possible. The more real they are for the writer, the more believable they are for the reader.
- Once a character is created, encourage the children to answer the questions on the Character Cards, about their characters. It doesn’t matter if the detail that emerges in the answer isn’t used in the story. It is part of the process of deepening the character’s personality and making them feel real. There is no right or wrong answer. The only unacceptable answer is “I don’t know”. The responses must also be consistent – eg, they can’t say their character’s favourite food is steak and kidney pie if they’ve said that they are vegetarian!
- Get the children to visualise these questions, imagining that they are on a journey, with each answer moving closer to the real character that is lurking in their imagination.
Point of view
- Explain to the children that, as well as creating interesting and believable characters, they will also need to consider the point of view from which a story will be told. Will it be told by their main character, in the first person, by another character, or by an unknown narrator?
- To get them started, give the children the following scenario, which comes from a story for younger children called Baby Bear Comes Home: A little girl accidentally leaves her teddy bear behind at school. That night, while she is asleep, the mummy and daddy teddy bears come to life and go off to rescue him. Ask the children to begin piecing together a simple storyline, concentrating on a beginning, middle and end. Encourage them to start by establishing the problem (Baby Bear has been left in school), the adventures (what happened to the characters on their journey) and the outcome (how everything was resolved).
About the author
Baby Bear Comes Home by Antony Lishak (Heinemann Blue Bananas series, 978 07497 18282).
- Less able children could tell the story verbally to the group. Older children could create a sequenced storyboard of events.
- Now think about the different points of view from which this story could be told – eg, the baby bear, the mummy or daddy bear, the little girl or another character in their story. A set of outlines of possible characters is available to download from the Literacy Time PLUS website. Why not fill in their speech bubbles saying “I am… and this is what happened/what I saw”? Then, either verbally or written on paper, tell the story from this particular character’s perspective, using the first person.
- Make a story map or flowchart of the events and use it to invite ‘What if…?’ questions. What if the classroom toys were holding Baby Bear for ransom? What if he arranged to be left behind on purpose? Anything is possible.