Creative Writing: Fiction
Creative Writing: Fiction

Creative Writing: Fiction

Lead Author(s): Linda M Rodriguez

Student Price: $61.00

This book will help develop writing skills, and enhance knowledge of authors, genres, trends, and innovations in contemporary fiction.

CREATING  A CHARACTER

'The Hare and the Tortoise' from Aesop's Fables. Illustration by Arthur Rackham. Published by Ballantyne & Co., London, 1912.[1]​

The Hare and the Tortoise is one of Aesop's Fables. In this story an arrogant Hare makes fun of a slow-moving Tortoise who decides to challenge the Hare to a race.

As the race begins, the Hare quickly runs ahead of the Tortoise. But, over confident, the Hare decides to sit and rest, and soon falls asleep.

When the Hare awakes from his nap, he discovers that the steady paced  and determined Tortoise has gone ahead and won the race.




​ Diego Velázquez's painting of Aesop (Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain c.1638).[2]

In general, fables point to human truths, customs, and weaknesses and teaches a common sense lesson or moral. These stories have been around since about 620-564 BCE when the legendary Aesop lived in Ancient Greece.

Today readers of all ages still love these narratives that humanize animals, large and small! So let's take a closer look and try to create our own fables and stories!


Discussion 1: Creating a Character

What is your favorite Aesop's Fable? Why do you like this story?


The Journey: Desires, Hopes, and Struggles

Anthropomorphized frogs walk to the North Pole to see Santa Claus(19thC).[3]​


Unique and lovable characters are one of the most appealing factors in animal fables and stories.

The characters might be furry, have paws and tails, or even webbed feet, but we identify with their desires, hopes, and struggles.

Original toys that inspired the adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. [4]​



After World War I, writer A.A. Milne transformed his son Christopher Robin Milne, and his toys into characters that even today we continue to identify with and follow into many adventures:

Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Gopher, and Tigger.



Recently all the toys underwent a restoration process by The New York Public Library as they are nearly 100 years old! They are safely housed at the  Children's Center at 42nd St.

Take a look at Winnie-the-Pooh Timeline and excerpts from the first Winnie-the-Pooh book here.

Winnie-the-Pooh made the jump from page to script when he first appeared in 1966 on The Walt Disney Company's animated featurette: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.

Take a look at Pooh's Balloon mini-story that takes on the structure of a fable with a moral:

Discussion 2: Creating a Character

Do you think 'Pooh's Balloon' is trying to transmit a lesson or moral as a classical animal fable? If yes, what would you say is the "lesson" we should learn from Pooh's plan to steal the bees' honey.


Zootopia

In the 21st century we continue to happily follow many other animal characters into fantastical worlds such as Judy Hopps!

Have you watched Zootopia (2016)? It was a run away success!

But why was it so successful? Let's take a look...

Timely Social Message

It's a modern animal fable that takes on timely social issues as:

  • Racism.
  • Diversity.
  • Stereotypes.
  • Discrimination.
  • Women and Men in the work place.
  • Women's roles in patriarchal societies.

Take a look at the this video, and think about what social issues are being explored in the sloth scene:

Discussion 3: Creating a Character

What social issues do you think the 'Zootopia' sloth scene explores? Please explain.

Check out these articles on Zootopia's timely messages:

Discussion 4: Creating a Character

Briefly comment on 1 of the 2 articles above about the film 'Zootopia'.


HEROES HAVE EMOTIONAL SCARS and CHARACTER FLAWS

A defining factor for Heroes are their EMOTIONAL SCARS that are often accompanied by real physical scars received in childhood.

Also, Heroes that we identify with have CHARACTER FLAWS as Judy Hopps in Zootopia.

Puss in Boots, illustration by Carl Offterdinger (1829-1889). Rabbits are naturally careful around a cat who views them as a tasty snack, but with human a great part of our inter-actions are affected by what we personally experience and learn from our families and in our communities. [5]​


Judy is prejudiced against predators because as a child-bunny she is bullied and scarred, physically and emotionally, by a young fox named Gideon.

Judy expresses her prejudice when she gives a speech in front of a crowd and cameras and talks about the predators' "biological component" and declares: "these predators may be reverting back to their primitive, savage way."

In real life, rabbits fear predators such as cats and foxes, but in the world presented in the film Zootopia, all animals live peacefully and in harmony together.



In spite of her character flaw, Judy is a complex and compelling heroine because she is:

  • Pro-active as she faces problems and obstacles.
  • Self-sacrificing putting the needs of others before her own needs.
  • A character who chases her dream and will act alone if needed to achieve her dream.

Judy is a feminist who is passionate about her chosen profession and is willing to make personal sacrifices to achieve her dream of .becoming the first rabbit on the police force of the city of Zootopia.

Even in a modern animal fable, like Zootopia, the essence of the Hero/Heroine is the sacrifice he/she makes for the Quest.

For more on Judy Hopps as a feminist hero, take a look at: Burn your princess dress: Disney's new heroine is a badass feminist rabbit.


Discussion 5: Creating a Character

What other popular fictional character in a story, novel or film have you noticed has an outer/inner scar? What is their scar?


STAR WARS UNIVERSE: INTERGALACTIC FABLES

HEROES ARE SELF-SACRIFICING

For the Quest, Heroes even give their life as Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) in Rogue One (2016).

Felicity Jones in Japan for the premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.[6]​

For the Quest, Heroes often lose their families and have to make it through life alone. This loss is a source of emotional pain.

Michael Cavna writes about Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso:

"She has a certain steeliness that emanates from those light eyes and forceful physicality. She plays the character like a quick-thinking caged animal."



Discussion 6: Creating a Character

Read the article above: Would you agree that Jyn Erso is the "greatest Star Wars heroine yet"? What is your favorite Star Wars universe character?Do they have any physical or emotional "scars"?


Characters Lead the Writer into Stories

Mama sends off her three little pigs into the world, each with their very own personality, on their life's journey where they will be harshly tested.[7]​

The True Test

A character's true persona is revealed and tested by how a character responds to conflict, by what they say and do!

THINK ABOUT: How did each Little Pig show their true persona when the wolf arrived at their door?

You can read several versions of the three little pigs story here.



Discussion 7: Creating a Character

With one or two adjetives, how would you describe each little piggy?


American Bison standing its ground surrounded by wolves.[8]​

The Wolf Test

How would you respond to a wild, hungry wolf outside your door?

Would you scream or laugh?

Would you speak to the wolf?

Would you call the police?

Would you run out the back door?

Or get a weapon?


Note on Character Traits

Character traits can be described as good or bad.

But it is only in specific situations that we truly see if a trait is beneficial or a set back to a character. It is in a difficult situation that we "show our true colors."

Character traits will be observed through responses to a situation but also through actions or even how a person acts around you or others. There are many words you can use to describe character traits. Check out this List of Character Traits.

Discussion 8: Creating a Character

How would you respond to a wild, hungry wolf or other "life and death situation" outside your door?


ARCHETYPES, QUESTS and HEROIC JOURNEYS

Archetypes identified by anthropologists and other researchers in narrative techniques are:

Cinderella is an archetypal heroine in need of a Magical Godmother.[9]​
  • Hero/Heroine
  • Mentor (Good/Wise or Bad)
  • Threshold Guardian
  • Herald (Messenger)
  • Shapeshifter
  • Shadow
  • Ally
  • Trickster (Chaos)

But there are other Archetypes, such as:

  • Dog (faithful/man’s best friend)
  • Fox (smart)
  • Mule (stubborn)
  • Wolf (hunter)
  • Good/Sacrificing Father/Mother
  • Evil Step-Mother
  • Magical Godmother
  • Witch
  • Prince/Princess
  • Puer Aeternus (Eternal Boy: Peter Pan)
  • Good/Bad Cop


In a story, a character may have a variety of functions and can appear as several Archetypes. It all depends on what is happening and needs of the Hero/Heroine. Often circumstances are against the Heroes from the moment they are born and they are considered "underdogs."

All great adventures, Quests or Heroic Journeys, will have a “happy” or "emotionally satisfying" ending. Even if the Hero/Heroine dies, as Jyn Erso in Rogue One, something positive, as the telling of an amazing story, must be the Heroic Journey's conclusion.

​ Depiction of the Town Mouse and Country Mouse of Aesop's Fables appearing in The Twelve Magic Changelings. Illustration by M.A.Glen. In this fable the underdog Country Mouse decides that his humble life is safer than the life of the rich Town Mouse in the city where a cat is always ready to kill the mice.[10]


In stories, often underdogs win:

  • The Tortoise in the fable, The Tortoise and the Hare
  • Judy Hopps in the modern animal fable, Zootopia.
  • Country Mouse in The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.





ALICE'S ADVENTURE IN WONDERLAND (1861)

In Alice in Wonderland, a young girl decides to follow an elegantly attired White Rabbit and starts an unforgettable adventure!

On her journey Alice shows her true colors in life and death situations! As a true resourceful heroine, Alice survived and returned home with a wonderful and unforgettable story!


​ Nora Archibald Smith's Boys and Girls of Bookland (1923). Cover and illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith.[11]
"...but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet..."


From Chapter 1: Down the Rabbit-hole of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventure in Wonderland




Would knowing more about rabbits and hares change your ideas about Alice's adventure?

Take a look at the full text of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and read on for more information on the symbolic meaning of rabbits and hares.

Well Dressed Rabbits and Other Wonderful Animal Characters

As a writer you should become knowledgeable of the symbolic quality of everyday beings and objects that surround us, including animals.

For example, rabbits and hares appear in mythologies, folklore, stories, and novels because:

  • As the Moon, they come out at night to play and can appear and disappear silently and quickly as shadows and as the Moon, they are related to life renewed through death.
  • They are related to rampant growth and proliferation of living things or material possessions and may bring with them wastefulness, lust, and excess.
  • According to Egyptian hieroglyphics, these animals were knowledgeable of life's secret elements and they offered their knowledge to humanity.
  • In the Tarot they are related to the Juggler, an instinctual and infantile creature.
Rabbit/Hare ancient Egyptian hieroglyph at the Temple of Edfu, Egypt. [12]​


When you are ready to write about animals and transform them into characters, be sure to research their nature and behavior in the wild and also their symbolism in human art from ancient times to the present.




EXERCISE: FROM ANIMAL CHARACTER TO STORY

Using character development and design methods used by writers of stories, novels and screenplays, let's explore our creativity... And maybe even discover more about our selves!

Create a character and you’ll create a story!

Step 1: Becoming One with Your Puppet

Let's distribute paper and coloring pencils or crayons around the room.

Then pass around the room a basket or other container filled with Peruvian finger puppets or any other small puppets as those made by Folkmanis.

Now trace your puppet's silhouette on the sheet of paper and freely color your drawing.

Step 2: How well do you know your Character?

Using your imagination and creativity, answer as many of the following questions as you can to the best of your ability but work fast because this will keep the Interior Editor away!

Discussion 9: Creating a Character

Character Basics-

a. Name or Nickname: What type of ANIMAL is your Character? Are they named after someone?

b. Family: Does your Character have a family? Mother, father, brothers and sisters? Are they happy with their family? Is your Character an orphan? What is their best and worse memory of their family?

c. Friendships: What type of friends does your Character have? What do other Characters say when your Character walks out of a room or party? Do they fear or feel jealous of him/her? Does your Character allow others to know their true nature or hides it?


Discussion 10: Creating a Character

Physical Description-

a. Face: Describe the shape of the face. What does the face tell us? Eyes: Do they look sad, happy, forgiving, severe or cruel?

b. Skin: Soft and well taken care of or dried out by the Sun or damaged in some other way? Visits a plastic surgeon or “medical” spa?

c. Hair: Long, short, curly, straight, dirty, clean? Does your Character have enough money to take great care of his/her hair?


Discussion 11: Creating a Character

Age, Image & Education-

a. Age: What is your Character's age? Do they feel younger or older than their biological age?

b. Self Image: How does your Character feel about their looks? Do they feel good about their body type? Is your Character fashionable? Do they have a favorite designer or color?

c. Education: Did your Character graduate from high school/university? Where did they study? Occupation? Social status? Languages spoken? Accent?


Discussion 12: Creating a Character

Daily Life-

a. Home: Describe your Character's house /apartment. How is their bedroom decorated? What kind of kitchen do they have? Cooking utensils? What's their favorite dish? Perhaps your Character is homeless?

b. Favorite Possession: A BMW or Jeep or Smart Car or some childhood toy or a gold ring or earrings or a pair of shoes? What pet does your Character have and what's its name? What does your Character WISH for?

c. Recreation: What does your Character consider fun? What is your Character’s favorite book or film or TV show? For your Character write: Journal Entry or Text Message or E Mail. Does he/she use FB and how many Friends does he/she have? What do they LIKE? Write a typical posting on FB.


Discussion 13: Creating a Character

Personality-

a. Believes/Politics/Religion- Does your Character take life seriously or acts as a child? Does he/she wish to change the world? Is he/she religious or is going through a crisis of Faith? Does your Character believe in Heaven and Hell? Does he/she talk to Angels or God or Ghosts or Aliens or Vampires? What does he/she FEAR?

b. Ambitions/Attitudes- What do they WANT? To become Governor or President? Make a million dollars? Have a dozen children? Write a book? Win a Nobel Prize? Gets nervous easily or looses their cool? Brave? Bully, Humble or Snob? How does your Character solve problems, with instinct, logic or emotions? Does your Character need to control the environment or other people around them? Do they have any special or particular NEED?

c. Weaknesses/Strengths- Imagine a diamond shape: What adjective that most strongly/distinctively describes your Character would you write in the middle? On the 4 sides, what other predominant/distinctive Character Traits would you write?

Tapestry: Greenery (1892) by John Henry Dearle for Morris & Co. (1860-1932) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The pear tree with the rabbits under it holds the inscription: “By woodsman edge I faint and fail, by craftsman’s edge I tell the tale.” [13] ​


And now....

STEP 2: Write a short fable or story and hand it to your professor.


Discussion 14: Creating a Character

If you wish, you can post your fable or short story below and we will all have a chance to comment on your work. We will all provide thoughtful and constructive feedback!


In summary:

Audiences Must be Able to Relate to Characters in Fables and Stories

A Hero/Heroine in a Fable or Story can be:

  • young or old
  • wanderer or home body
  • martyr or warrior
  • vengeful or forgiving
  • ruler or servant
  • fool or innocent
  • human or animal

 On the Journey to achieve their dreams, often Heroes:

  • lose someone they love, or
  • lose a physical ability, or
  • their bodies get badly injured. 

These painful losses or "scars" are physical and emotional and can never be completely erased.

​ Fox chasing Rabbit/Renard poursuivant un lapin. Oil on canvas, 19th C. McCord Museum of Canadian History, Montreal.[14]


Image Credits

[1] Image by Arthur Rackham under Public Domain.

[2] Image by Diego Velázquez under Public Domain.

[3] Image by Prang under Public Domain.

[4] Image by Spictacular under Public Domain.

[5] Image by Carl Offterdinger under Public Domain.

[6] Image by Dick Thomas Johnson under CC BY 2.0

[7] Image by  Doug Smith under Public Domain.

[8] Image by Sylvester, Charles Herbert under Public Domain.

[9] Image by Sylvester, Charles Herbert  under Public Domain.

[10] Image by M. A. Glen under Public Domain.

[11] Image by Nora Archibald Smith under Public Domain.

[12] Image by Rémih under CC BY-SA 1.0

[13] Image by John Henry Dearle and Museum of Fine Arts-Boston under Public Domain.

[14] Image by Anonymous under Public Domain.

Before the Common or Current Era.
A particular character or personality.
An individual who is expected to lose in a sport or academic competition or political, beauty, etc. contest. Underdogs can be victims of social, political or other type of cultural injustice.