Too often, students get stuck with writing something unique in their stories. They may revert to what they know, play it safe, rather than exploring new ideas that might challenge or subvert the expectations of the reader. It is easy to provide students with a problem that a character must overcome, such as a physical conflict. As we know: without a conflict a story does not go anywhere.
However, we should also consider that we can discover conflict by considering how the character sees the world and the problems that they may face each day.
Consider this: why not introduce students to a point of view and allow the conflict to introduce itself organically? With this in mind, get your students writing for 5 minutes using one of the following prompts:
- Write from the point of view of a fruit, such as an apple.
- Write from the point of view of an everyday inanimate object, such as a laptop, television, or charging adaptor.
- Write from the point of view of as a car, or public transport.
- Write from the point of view of a stationary item, like a pencil or a paperclip.
- Write from the point of view of an animal, such a cow or a bird.
- Write from the point of view of a piece of clothing, such as a hat or a shirt.
- Write from the point of view of something designed to be disposable – a cup, or cardboard box.
- Write from the point of view of a colour. What emotions might come to mind?
Using one of these prompts allows students to explore how others (or even things) might see the world differently. An apple or animal might take us from growth to consumption, while a disposable item or clothing might introduce us to environmental waste.
It is important that students understand that character can drive conflict. Sure, it might be a silly exercise to write from the point of view of a decaying apple, but what parallels can be made about life and death?
We can investigate conflict further by considering who a person is beyond their everyday life. For example, you may pose the following questions to students after they have developed their character:
- What would it be like to meet your character? What would your impression be?
- What is their favourite colour?
- What is their favourite movie?
- How would they react if…?
- What was their school or home life like?
- Would you consider them social or reserved?
These questions allow us to provoke a deeper conversation around who this character is beyond the obvious. When teaching story writing, we can sometimes focus too much on what is relevant to the plot without provoking questions that might allow our students to craft more dynamic characters. Using these questions as prompts will allow for a more thorough examination of character.