Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mysterious Characters

Yesterday, I wrote about the writing magic discovered in objects and props. Today it's time for the mystery.

People are mysterious. Characters even more so.

On Tuesday during our Write from the Heart workshop at the Highlights Foundation, author-facilitator, Jillian Sullivan led us in dialogue and character work.

A brief page of notes, a slice from the session.
To create characters we quickly chose a character's name, birthday and traits: two positive character traits and one challenging character traits. She told us to take one trait from your BFF, one trait from your mother and just make up the last.

 I created Ellie O'Flanagan, born January 24, 1972. In my mind she is energetic, artistic, and inconsiderate.

Next we had to create an opposing character--someone older, opposite natured or opposite gendered. I imagined Ellie as an eleven year-old and I decided to make my opposite character a  grandmother figure. We talked about different ways to generate character names: from family history, from famous folks, from the phone book. I love Jillian's suggestion: use your first pet's name and the first street you lived on. With that I came up with gracious and generous, Lilly Darcey. She is a disciplinarian and was born Feb 12, 1916.

I left myself a lot of writing room to explore in year choices.

As writers we need to flesh out characters. At the beginning there is a lot of mystery. To solve the mystery, to generate ideas and detail, Jillian did an astrological reading of several of our characters. She read us snippets from The Chinese Astrology Book. We marveled at the rich descriptions and got to researching our own characters.

Lilly is a dragon, a fire dragon: "Bigger and bright than any other dragon, this one is also very entertaining, amusing, friendly, witty, social and warm-hearted. It does possess a temper though." Perfect for the disciplinarian I imagined her to be; dragons do breathe fire after all.

Ellie is born in the year of the rat.
Illustration from: The Chinese Astrology Handbook
She is a water rat: "This intuitive, adventurous rat likes to travel, but once it finds a safe haven, it will settle and won't be shifted. The water rat is creative, enjoys literature, and is a good diplomat (Craze)."

How fun is that?

Works Cited

Craze, Richard. The Chinese Astrology Handbook: A Complete guide to the Chinese Horoscope. London: Hermes House, 2002.

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