To help students understand the options for building character scenes, divide the class into groups of four. With those students remaining, make one more group of two to five.
Distribute copies of Campbell's eight devices for characterization so that each member in the group has a set. Assign two of Campbell's techniques to each group member. With the odd-numbered two-to-five group, use the same procedure, but assign Campbell's devices accordingly.
- 1. By action of the character:
- Pete slunk out of the battle.
- 2. By speech of the character:
- "Hiya, pardner!"
- 3. By effect of the character upon other characters:
- Her loveliness was breath-taking.
- 4. By the characters own reactions to persons, things, and surrounding circumstances:
- John adored her, especially in blue.
- 5. By reporting what other characters say about the character:
- Said Tom, "Of course Sam is a heel!"
- 6. By explaining the traits and motives of the character:
- He loved good food.
- 7. By describing the character (in terms of the five senses):
- He had blue eyes, spoke with a Southern accent, smelled of the smokehouse, and his muscles were hard as nails.
- 8. By analyzing the psychological processes of the character:
- He was unable to overcome his shyness, which was the result of his being the son of a famous and terribly egotistical father.
Explain to the class that they will be working as a team to create four group character sketches, and that their first task will be to pick four stereotype characters, one for each member of the group to begin writing about. Project the following list with an overhead and ask them to make selections.
School-Related Stereotypes: the class cut-up, the ladies' man, the impatient secretary, the deranged school cook, the hard-of-hearing custodian, the gullible girl, the computer nerd, the popularity seeker, a humorless teacher, the loner, the school's burn-out, a quick-tempered athlete, the constantly suspicious assistant principal, the complainer, the ultimate rule-follower, the TV addict, the sports fanatic, the rock musician, the violinist, the star football lineman, the outstanding gymnast, the eccentric artist.
Society-Related Stereotypes: the rumor-spreading hairdresser, the pious reverend, the gum-chewing waitress, the talkative cab driver, the fanatical environmentalist, the exotic fortune teller, the always-excited disc jockey, the smiling news anchor, the bigoted red neck, the hand-shaking politician, the introverted accountant, the professional wrestler, the cold-blooded hit man, the sleepy all-night security guard, the union-supporting truck driver.
Once students have their characters, explain that they will need to use the two devices they have been assigned to write three to five sentences that characterize their stereotype. Allow them only eight minutes to work. After that time, they should pass their passage to the person on their right, who will continue the characterization using his or her two devices.
Continue the rotation every eight minutes until all four members of the group have contributed.
Have students take turns in their small groups reading the team drafts. Ask each team to choose their best character sketch and revise it as a team, adding and deleting whatever they feel will make the sketch more complete. After this, have an elected spokesperson from each group read the revised sketch.