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13 January 2024

Posted by Sukie & Claire

Junior Writers - Week 1 (The Art of Writing) - Character

Hi Writers,


Welcome back to Term 2 of Forest Arts Junior Writers! We hope you’ve all had a restful time off, and an

inspiring New Year. While January can be a bleak time for some of us, it’s also a chance to jump into

new endeavours and pick up new skills, so we’re looking forward to seeing everyone getting into the

swing of things and maybe even submitting some competition pieces…


This term we’ll be focusing on The Art of Writing and doing some deep dives into the different elements

that create great writing. This week we were thinking about Character.


During our check-in we all described our weeks as an animal. Claire was feeling quite hibernatory and

bearlike, while Sukie’s busy week was a beaver biting away at things until they suddenly bore fruit. Indie,

one of our returning members, had had a long week, as long as a giraffe’s neck, while our newest

member, Evan, felt like a woodpecker pecking away at difficult new Year 3 Maths and English.


We discussed what we were currently reading and what our goals were for the term - Evan had been

working through ‘Diary Of A Wimpy Kid’, and wanted to focus on writing a short adventure story. Indie

updated us on the next installment of the ‘Christmasaurus’ series, ‘Christmasaurus and the Naughty List’,

and also settled on writing a short story as her goal for the term. We also talked about the great, golden

‘Egyptology’ book that still holds on strong as a young people’s favourite.


We spent some time setting the space and making our communal agreement to the three base rules:

1. Have a go

2. No self-diss

3. Have fun!


Whilst preparing for a game of Buzzy Bees, Evan provided a very clear explanation of alliteration, before

Indie went on to portray a fabulous Hamlet for the letter ‘H’.


We discussed story components and the place that character, setting, plot, buildup/tension and conflict

had in storytelling, and read some characterful excerpts from A Christmas Carol, ‘The Lion, The Witch

and The Wardrobe’ and ‘The Northern Lights’.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:


‘But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping,

clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous

fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features,

nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and

spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry

chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and

didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.


External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill

him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting

rain less open to entreaty.’


The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis:


‘Aslan stood in the centre of a crowd of creatures who had grouped themselves around him in the

shape of a half-moon. There were Tree-Women there and Well-Women (Dryads and Naiads as they used

to be called in our world) who had stringed instruments; it was they who had made the music. There were

four great centaurs. The horse part of them was like huge English farm horses, and the man part was like

stern but beautiful giants. There was also a unicorn, and a bull with the head of a man, and a pelican,

and an eagle, and a great dog. And next to Aslan stood two leopards of whom one carried his crown and

the other his standard.

But as for Aslan himself, the Beavers and the children didn't know what to do or say when they saw

him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the

same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at

Aslan's face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming

eyes; and then they found they couldn't look at him and went all trembly.’


The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman:


‘She was a coarse and greedy little savage, for the most part. But she always had a dim sense that it

wasn’t her whole world; that part of her also belonged in the grandeur and ritual of Jordan College; and

that somewhere in her life there was a connection with the high world of politics represented by Lord

Asriel. All she did with that knowledge was to give herself airs and lord it over the other urchins. It had

never occurred to her to find out more.

So she had passed her childhood, like a half-wild cat. The only variation in her days came on those

irregular occasions when Lord Asriel visited the College. A rich and powerful uncle was all very well to

boast about, but the price of boasting was having to be caught by the most agile Scholar and brought to

the Housekeeper to be washed and dressed in a clean frock, following which she was escorted (with many

threats) to the Senior Common Room to have tea with Lord Asriel. A group of senior Scholars would be

invited as well. Lyra would slump mutinously in an armchair until the Master told her sharply to sit up,

and she’d glower at them all till even the Chaplain had to laugh.’

We discussed how Scrooge is so quickly and effectively made out to be someone we wouldn’t want to

meet or visit - ‘mean and horrible’ - yet we want to know what happens to him and why he’s the main

character rather than someone less cruel, as well as how immediately Aslan is shown to be a deeply

important and powerful figure.



Next up was a quick game of character consequences - everyone took a sheet of paper and wrote the

name of a character on it before folding it over and passing it to the right. We described the characters one

feature at a time before folding it over and passing it along, to co-create complex and fascinating characters 

ranging from Lady Muck whose mind was as broken as a clock and who moved like an old

bicycle, to Finley whose eyes were like fire burning and whose personality was like a shy and timid

shrew.


After discussing cliches and why they are good things to avoid or how they can be turned on their

heads, we had a crack at starting to develop our own characters using the Character Profile sheet,

considering things like what their job might be, or what their laugh might sound like. Next week these

characters might make a further appearance as we discuss settings and how to develop a world or sense of

place.


We’d love to see some more new faces this term, so if anyone knows a budding writer aged 7-10, we’d

love to hear from them! All of our Junior Writing sessions are free and bookable through the Forest Arts

Centre, so come along and have a go with us!


See you next week


:)




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