Styrofoam balls

Today in class we were using styrofoam balls and the overhead projector to recreate the phases of the moon.  I had the boys go first since there weren’t enough balls for everyone to go at the same time.  I’m very careful when discussing this demo to avoid referring to the props in the plural form.  Here were a few of the choice comments:

Student:  Hey, tell him to move.  His head is blocking our balls.

Me: It’s time to switch and give the girls a turn.

Other student:  Should we give the girls our balls?

(Must keep straight face.  Must keep straight face.)

Know thy characters

One of my favorite parts of writing is getting to know my characters.  The best way that I’ve found to do this, is to write.  As I write I learn what they would and wouldn’t do, say, and think.  That said, there are always characters I know better than others.

Someone once told me about a writing exercise for getting to know a character when you write down twenty things you know about that character that may or may not have relevance to the plot of the story you’re writing.  In all honesty, I’ve never actually done it.  But it sounds like a really good idea.

One of the challenges in creating realistic YA characters is that often we’re writing about these characters at a very confusing time in their lives.  It’s easy to say; “Oh my character is still figuring out who s/he is.”   However, this should not be an excuse for the author not knowing their character.  If your character is confused about their identity, wants, needs, dreams.  It’s your responsibility as the author to have a pretty good understanding of where the confusion lies.

An author I think does this particularly well is Sara Zarr.  She creates really authentic well drawn teen characters.  Her characters can be confused without giving the idea that it’s the author who is confused.  Can you think of other authors who fit that description?  How about books you put down because the author didn’t seem to have the first clue who their characters were?

Wise beyond their years…sometimes

On Fridays I like to share science-related current events with my students at the beginning of class.  Last week I shared a story about the Asian Carp, an invasive species threatening the Great Lakes ecosystem.  The article suggested that if carp were to become a more common food source in the American diet, than a fishing industry could develop that would help alleviate the problem.

To which one of my students responded by putting up his hand and saying:

“Oh great Ms. Kaufman.   There’s a really American solution to the problem….we’ll just eat our way out of it!”