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Writing: Storymaking

Can Character


Today's Snack: Empty a CAN of tuna into a bowl. Stir in a little mayonnaise with some chopped celery and onion. Spread on crackers or whole-wheat bread. Mmmm! Enjoy with a glass of milk.




Tin can (washed out with soap,

and sharp pieces bent down or taped down)

Googly eyes



Tissue paper

Pipe cleaners

Fabric scraps

Rubber bands


Steel wool

Buttons and beads

Any and all other scraps

Hot-glue gun and adult supervision


Lined writing paper and No. 2 pencil



The better job you do of describing the characters in your stories, the more captivating your writing will be.


Your task is to bring your characters to life. Even though you write in two dimensions, you need to make your characters seem to your readers to be 3-D - alive!


People love people, with all their strengths and all their flaws. And some of the most memorable "people" in stories aren't people at all! They are animals, machines, trees, candlesticks, and all other kinds of "things."


The variety of characters is truly endless. So be sure to make your characters memorable, distinct and delightfully different. Then your story will be all those things!


Make the reader want to spend time with your characters, even if they're "bad guys," just because they're interesting.


Make them interesting by "designing" them even before you write. Make a character sketch - which is just a list -- describing what they do for a living, if they are adults, or what their favorite hobbies, activities, sports or classes are if the characters are younger.


There are a lot of details that you can "mine" for your story based on the kinds of activities and vocabulary that pertain to different kinds of jobs.


Don't forget what they look like, what they wear, how they speak, how they move, what things they have in their pocket or room. . . .


Write so that the reader knows that character well enough that the reader wouldn't be surprised if the character came alive and walked into the room.


As you develop your characters, it's a great idea to be a little bit of a copycat. Make your characters fresh, new and unique, but use parts of other people or things or characters to "build" your own.


To do that, listen in on conversations wherever you go. What kinds of things do they say? Maybe your character could use that exact expression.


Pay attention to how people use their bodies when they talk to one another. Do they lean in when they're asking a question? Do they put a hand on a hip when they're irritated? Do they tug at their clothes? What exactly do their mouths do? Mouths move the most of any facial feature, so you can show a lot of a character's feelings by describing what his or her mouth does at some crucial point in your story. You can use these gestures to show emotion and underline the words and actions in your story.


Now take a plain, empty tin can, and create a character out of it! Make sure to give him, her or it a name, and maybe a special power or interest that might be of use in a story.


Your can character doesn't have to be human. You can make the can just the character's head or other body part, or the whole body. You can turn it sideways or whatever you want to do. You can invent an unusual way for your can character to communicate or move. Whatever you'd like to do . . . you CAN!


Use the hot-glue gun to attach features, since regular glue probably won't hold to the metal.


Once you're happy with your character, write a story about him, her or it.


Then when everybody's finished, present your stories and characters to the other students. This makes a fun activity to present to parents and families, too.



By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010

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