Writing Assignment for Week Two - Voice and Character

The idea in this one is to give yourself some new narrative voice characteristics by partnering with a photo image to create a new narrative character. The important thing is to use a photo of a person you don’t know personally or by celebrity reputation, so that everything about the person is created originally in your mind from just looking at the face. No research. No memory.

You can choose one of the photos from our photo array, or you can find a photo on your own.  The important thing is to use a photo of a person you don't know personally or by celebrity reptuation.  OR, you can go to a photo-sharing/indexing site like http://flickr.com and choose a face from among millions of photos. (For example, if you enter the search word “faces” at flickr.com, you’ll turn up over two million photos! You can also search categories such as “men” or “women” or other, further refined categories. But don’t spend too much time poring through the opportunities. Find one that calls to you early on and seems to trigger your impulse to tell a story.

Get inside the character whose face you see. It usually helps to be able to gaze into their eyes, if possible, but this isn't necessary. (If anyone is visually impaired, you can simply imagine another person and accomplish a similar experience, probably just as vividly or more vividly than if you were looking at a photograph. Similarly, anyone who feels restricted by the obligation of looking at a photograph and would rather simply occupy the persona of an imagined character without being confined to a single photo, then feel free to disregard the photo side of this exercise. The important thing is to create the voice of the character, however you can accomplish that best.)

Start by giving the person a name – first name, maybe the last name, nickname, or some combination. Names are important. A Trixie can go places a Gwendolyn might have difficulty getting into. Each will sound different, simply from your having selected their names.

Now, just allow the words to flow. Whatever the character is thinking, let it flow onto the page. It might just be a stream of consciousness. It might be serious thought. It might be flighty evasions from what is important. Let your first person narrative, in the persona of the character, come out in the words and attitude of the character. Yes, part of you the writer will inevitably be incorporated into the character, but this is a collaboration combining the character you’ve created with the part of you that wants to be saying something.

You might choose someone you think is similar to yourself. You might choose someone distinctly different. You might even cross genders or other barriers and try that out. 

The character might want to say what he or she is thinking. The character might want to tell a story from some time ago, might want to tell you of plans for the immediate future right after the photo encounter is over, might want to complain about something, perhaps even the fact the picture is being taken. Just let it flow.

Imagine that the character who is narrating is talking to some specific person, not readers in general. That person might be you the writer. Or the person might be someone (or perhaps a small select group of someones) you are comfortable talking with, someone who brings out the story teller in you. 

Let it go as long as it takes. (Just be sure to get enough sleep, and get to work on time!) Maybe this is the beginning of something that will be much longer. Don’t stop too soon, just because you’re doing an assignment. This is how novels get started!

Now, cull out the 500 to 700 words you want to share with the class or with us.