This program is made possible through a generous gift from Ruth and Russell Bolton
in conjunction with the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Like a Penguin, He Waddled Away: Thoughts on Detail and Character

Characters filled the RFL apartment in the Honors Dorm Wednesday night. Our night started with crayons: draw an important object for your character. Note: not only are Honors Hall Dormers fantastic writers, but man, can they draw! We shared our discoveries -- a dress, a suit of armor, a hat, a necklace, a laptop -- and then, we discovered how those objects fit in our characters' lives.

Discovery is an appropriate word for the night for we all found out something new about our characters. By thinking about the trajectory of a certain object in a character's life, we all found out new details about characters we thought we knew, and, as we discussed, when it comes to characters, details matter. Details are what make characters come to life, and having characters surprise us as writers, lets us know that our characters are finally coming into their own.

And so, armed with our newly found knowledge about our characters, we sat down to write. Some wrote a scene, others poetry, the point of it all was to write about that object and the character. The results were great: poems exploring time, scenes exposing the heart of the character. As we were winding down our writing, one Boltoneer wasn't quite done. She needed one more use of metaphorical language.

"Like a penguin, he waddled away," another Boltoneer suggested. It was the first thing that she thought of.

We all thought that it was such a striking image, we stuck the line to the end of all of our works (with a few cases of adjusting for tense, gender, etc). Suddenly, our discussion of character changed into a discussion of how details affect tone and meaning. We witnessed our scenes and poems change. We were shocked, surprised, and delighted. As the night ended, we said goodbye to our characters -- for the night, at least -- and because we all created such vivid, well-developed characters, they waved back. Like penguins, they waddled away.

This Sunday, 12/2, in the Honors Hall Dorm at 6 pm, students will read their work they created this semester. Be there! There might be penguins.

Until next semester, Boltoneers. Keep on writing!

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