Tuesday, July 17, 2012


This past spring I did several workshops with students about plot, and one of the things I talked with the kids about was how a character’s strengths and flaws should come into play in the climactic scene.

We talked about characters like Harry Potter and Katniss and Ludelphia. Then I asked kids to come up with their own lists of strengths and flaws.

What follows is a list of responses taken from index cards. I’m sharing the flaws because often that’s the hardest part for we writers to develop in those characters we love so much. Strengths are much easier, at least for me.

In the workshop, the students write anonymously, then I collect the index cards and read the responses aloud. I do it this way because every kid wants to hear his words read aloud. They want to hear if what they wrote gets a chuckle or a groan. The great thing about making it anonymous is that it allows the kids safety and security. There is less risk when no one is identified. Though I do encourage them to claim their words when they hear them, if they so desire! I just know there are a lot of kids out there just like me who would be horrified to have their words identified. It’s my way of honoring the introverts among us.

And now for the list. Some are serious, some more lighthearted. At least one (I think) was written in jest. Or maybe not. You decide. J

I yell at my sister a bit too much.
I get mad at things not worth being mad about.
In softball, I sometimes swing at bad pitches.
I am very impatient and I can’t wait on things.
Sometimes I can’t stop talking.
I bite my nails.
I cannot run fast.
I can get offended easily.
I feel people make fun of me when they aren’t.
I don’t listen to my parents all the time.
I can’t get up in the morning.
I procrastinate.
I do things last minute.
I forget things.
I roll my eyes.
I back-talk.
I have bad days and good days.
I don’t like reading at all.
I am stubborn.
I always have to be right.
It is my way or the highway.
I always fight with my sister.
I get mad when someone tells me I did something wrong.
I have a hard time with math.
I can’t be interested in only one thing.
I get upset very easily.
I am not that good at math.
I am lazy sometimes.
I miss things for too long.
My room is not always clean.
I stutter sometimes.
I forget everything.
I forget to do chores when my mom tells me to do something.
I forget to practice my singing.
I apparently walk weird.
I like unicorns way too much.


  1. you know I had many of these "flaws" when I was young... remember that was my bully years, there for the my way or the highway years. Yes my room was messy when I was a kid but.... not as messy as my grandchildren rooms are...and I stayed mad always... and of course I yelled at my brother since I didn't have a sister.
    My point is that knowing our flaws and working to fix them is our story... we all are flawed but we all also have good ... learning to balance out is called growing up

  2. My problem when I do this with my students is that they all want to guess who wrote which reply. Instead of listening to the words on their own terms they are muttering -- or shouting -- their guesses about the author. They do love to hear their words read, though.


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