Thinking about character:
Who are your favourite characters from books, TV or films? Which character do you most empathise with / reminds you the most of how you think and feel?
Describe yourself using character traits from eight different fictional characters.
For example, you might have:
- the bravery of Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
- the sense of humour of Ron Weasley (Harry Potter)
- the ingenuity of Wednesday Adams (The Adams Family)
- the kindness of Charlie’s grandad (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
- the determination of Moana (Moana)
- the naughtiness of George (George’s marvellous medicine)
- the intelligence of Matilda (Matilda)
- the imagination of Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins)
Have a look at your list of characters, they all have character traits that make up you (or how you would like to be), are the characters like each other too? The example list has boys and girls, children and old people – and a wizard. Does your list too?
Building a character:
Sometimes when we make up a new character for a story we forget that real people are made up of all sorts of different character traits and that we are all different, instead we get trapped in stereotypes. That can be really limiting for our creativity and our ideas – and also make for quite boring stories. If someone was speaking about a character in a book they really like and described the character as strong, handsome or loving football we might assume in our mind that the character identifies as male however that might not be the case. Gender stereotypes can be really damaging as they limit boys to one set of characteristics and ambitions and girls to another. They are also problematic for people who don’t identify as a boy or a girl.
Can you make up a character to be the star of a new story? Often when writing a story we start by thinking ‘there is a girl who…’ or ‘once upon a time there was a boy…’ but what happens if you start with the character traits you want your main character to have, and don’t decide on a gender at all? Here are some questions you might want to consider:
- What makes them laugh?
- What makes them cry?
- Who are their best friends?
- What is their family like?
- Where do they live?
- What are they really good at?
- Are they really bad at anything?
- What is their name?
- What is their favourite food?
- Who or what are they scared of?
Write your story:
Can you write a story for your character to star in? Or if you like drawing you could create a comic strip.
Take it Further
There are some great examples of characters in books/comics/movies/games that break stereotypes and are not ‘defined’ by their gender and books that take reading beyond binary such as:
Peanut Goes For Gold by Jonathan Van Ness
A Fire Engine for Ruthie by Leslea Newman
You could do a Bookshelf Audit to see how good the books on your shelves are at smashing gender stereotypes and making everyone feel welcome, whatever their gender.