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An interesting extension of the exercise, suggested by the author, is to have students write their perceptions of a character and then create a story or profile in which the character does NOT fit with the expectations that the character’s personal appearance would set up.
A good model for this is Chaucer in his "Canterbury Tales" -- the vignettes from his prologue briefly describe the actions, physical characteristics and words of his characters.
He only chooses a few details to emphasize, as you should; this is a snapshot, not a portrait.
Have students take a sheet of notebook paper and tear it into six pieces.
On three of those pieces, they should write down physical traits that a person might possess (examples: peg leg, pot belly, balding, tall & skinny, athletic build, crazy eyes, etc.).
(For example, if someone has an eye patch, WHY do they have it?
)If time permits, I like to have students put their papers back in the pile, shuffle, and re-draw.You can also have them trade piles with another group to make it more interesting for them.This way, every student can write two or three character sketches in one class period.This opening should intrigue your audience enough to keep them reading.Your second paragraph should include physical details and dress; the readers should gain a mental picture of your subject.Be sure to set each scene by giving detailed descriptions of each incident, how it came about and how the character reacted. The essay you create from the elements above should first describe and then dramatize the memorable character.Begin with an introduction telling how you know him or met him, and what he means to you.However, if you don’t want to ask your students to do an assignment without receiving credit for it, you can always collect the character sketches and comment/grade; you can also grade as the students present their sketches to their classmates.This is a series of articles that can be used for creative writing exercises and lesson plans in any English class.For activities such as this one, I consider it to be a practice toward a goal, and I don’t assess it the same way I would if the students had been given a chance to refine and polish their work.I generally don’t grade this assignment, because it’s more for fun and inspiration than it is to demonstrate a skill.