Time and again I’ve asked my students to give me a name. “Ruby,” someone shouts out. I write Ruby in the middle of the white board. Then I fire questions at them. “How old is she? Is she married? Does she have children? Does she have a career? Who were her parents? What’s her dream? What’s she afraid of?” On these last two questions I won’t take general answers, like happiness or success. It has to be something specific like, “I want to discover a cure for cancer.”
Each answer goes in its own circle. For parents, somebody shouts out, “wanted her to be a musician,” but it’s already been determined that her career is as a biological scientist.
Circles come off circles. We fill the board.
“What’s her inner problem?” I ask. I don’t give my students time to evaluate their answers. I just keep pushing. Turns out that Ruby watched her father work on an assembly line all his life and he died two weeks after he retired. She’s deathly afraid of boring science.
Soon we have a big picture and we see interconnections, problems and successes. I like webbing – some call it brainstorming – because it’s not logical, linear thinking. I think it’s a great way to come up with a character.
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