Nothing is true of every character. No one approach will help pupils to create convincing characters. This section suggests a few different ways to think about character. To introduce the idea of a rounded character, it can be helpful for pupils to work with fully formed characters from television, film or books they have read. By exploring what they know about these characters, they can begin to understand what they need to know about their own creations to make them believable and well-rounded.
In pairs, choose a character you both know from television, film or books. Answer the following questions about your chosen character:
- Who are they?
- What are they like?
- What is their family like?
- What kind of person are they?
- Why are they the way they are?
Now, think about a situation your character has never been in:
- Where are they?
- What are they doing?
- What so they want more than anything?
- What obstacles could stop them from getting what they want?
- How do they feel at different points in your version of their life?
Be prepared to share your responses with your classmates.
Back to basics
Back to basics
Pupils need to establish the basic facts about their character before they can develop their character further.
Ask your pupils to use the Character profile page resource to complete a character profile about their character. If pupils haven’t already, ask them to briefly consider the plot of their story. Ask them if their character’s age and gender is relevant and appropriate to the plot.
Ensure your pupils consider both physical and emotional traits for their character, reminding them that at this stage the information is still quite basic.
This activity provides opportunities to discuss online sharing and safety and how your pupils can protect themselves from online predators. Useful resource: Net Aware by the NSPCC.
This is an editable resource, you can add other questions you want pupils to consider.
This Character questionnaire is a useful resource for creating back-story and making characters believable. You could use it with the Facebook character profile to draw out the differences between the truthful internal character and the image the character wishes to project to the world.
Once your pupils have established basic details about their character, encourage them to begin to develop their character to create personality traits.
Use the Create an interview resource to stimulate discussion or as a hot-seating activity where pupils ask these questions of each other. You can ask your pupils to answer spontaneously or give them time to prepare.
Working with images
Working with images
Creating stories for couples in photographs, paintings and stills from TV or film can give your pupils opportunities to work together creatively to invent the most interesting stories, inferring meaning from the smallest of details.
Search online for images of bored couples, old couples, stressed couples, happy couples or odd couples. Alternatively, encourage your pupils to choose images that appeal to them. Then ask them to show you the images using Office 365 or Google Classroom. The Working with images resource includes a handful of images.
- Give your pupils different photographs of couples. Ask them, in pairs, to create a biography for the couple in no more than four or five sentences;
- Ask your pupils to swap the images with another pair and create another biography. Pupils should then share their completed biographies and discuss the reasons why they created their backstory;
- Use Freeze frame or tableau to tell the story of a relationship from the photographs. Create at least four freeze frames, both before and after the photograph was taken; and
- Rank the couples from happiest to unhappiest. Agree the order in your groups. Ask one of the group to explain the group’s view to the rest of the class.
Activities with images – crowd scene
Why not go to the Ulster Museum and visit the galleries? Choose a crowd scene or choose one person in the crowd and write about their experience in the picture or before or after the picture was captured.
The Crowd scene resource is a sample image collection that gives pupils opportunities to create interesting characters, relationships, scenarios and emotions.
On the rest of Martin Parr’s website, you will find lots of images to inspire a range of activities. Pupils could simply write captions for some of the images, create speech bubbles, describe the scene in a particular genre, write an internal monologue or a diary entry, create a series of tweets or a Facebook entry, create a back story or create a write-on. They could also do any of the activities outlined in this resource. For other ideas for work with image of crowds see the Crowd scene project ideas resource.
You could also apply any of the character activities already outlined to characters imagined from visual stimuli. This may be a useful preparation for GCSE work on Creative Writing.
Ask your pupils to create a character from a poem or short story. Pupils could critique the casting for characters in film adaptations of novels.
This activity presents challenges if they have seen the film first, as it is more difficult for them to separate the actor’s interpretation of the character from the author’s depiction of them. You could use CCEA’s Thinking Cards to help your pupils to distinguish between the actor or director‘s interpretation and their own interpretation from the text.