LM Feldman was the honorary guest in the English department this past week. Feldman is both a playwright and a circus performer. She is known for her play script called “Thrive, or What You Will.” The playscript follows a gender-nonconforming botanist during the 18th-century.
At the start of the event, I was more than excited to see the writer perform handstands and cartwheels for the class. Then creative writing students gathered in a circle around her as a faculty member introduced Feldman. The students were prepared to ask questions, having already read Feldman’s play script before her visit. Feldman started by asking the West Chester University students about their writing habits. Feldman was prepared to lecture the creative writing students on characterization, since the students had written down writing exercises that the playwright could use during her lecture.
One topic the creative writing students wanted to focus on was characterization. The students found a quiet place in the room to follow the guided writing exercise. The exercise was intended to list any traits both physical and mental about their character. The prompted writing was to help writers understand their character(s) more. The students started writing one of their characters’ names and age. Then any physical traits that would distinguish that character from others. The next idea that was needed for characterization was a motive. This can be discovered by asking the writer, “why?” If the character has no intention, then why are they even there in the first place? The writer needs to get a good idea of who their character is by knowing the character’s likes and dislikes.
Another question to ask their character is, “what does the character want?” What does the character fear most? After writing more about the character, the writer should have a list of character traits. With these character traits, the creative writing students wrote for 10 minutes using another writing prompt. This prompt was to use what the character rants about, a recurring dream of the character or the character’s “shadow” self. The “shadow” is the unconscious state of mind of the character. This writing exercise was designed for writers to go more into depth to build on a character. As a writer myself, I wrote of my character’s recurring dream of continuously getting lost in a wide-open space. I saw the character who was very timid and constantly doubted herself. She would never meet her expectations and feared self failure. After following the writing exercise, I learned more about my character. I now know of my character’s fears and wants after writing for them. This useful exercise provides more depth to outlining characters. It is a tool to help the writer learn more of their character(s).
Cassie Miller is a third-year Psychology major with a minor in Creative Writing. CM946568@wcupa.edu