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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Packing Your Bags

One of these things is not like the other

One of these things is not like the other.

by Lisa Bullard

One of the basic writing exercises I use with kids starts with having them create personal “Time Capsules” (download the activity). It’s a great way to explore how writers build a character through the use of “telling” details—in this case, the items a character values the most.

But a person’s stuff can reveal more about them than just the obvious. For example, I have identical twin nephews. From the time they were two, one of them (Alex), insisted on spiking up with hair gel like a porcupine or a James Dean-wannabe. When he came to visit me, he’d carry along an entire 128 oz. bottle for an overnight stay (I guess you never know when you might have a hair gel emergency).

For years we weren’t sure what the gel represented. Was his chosen hairstyle a “coolness” thing? A matter of vanity? And then Alex finally answered the question we’d been asking for so long.

“This way nobody confuses me for Matt [his identical twin],” he said. “I really want people to know it’s me under here.” Hair gel represented his deeply felt need to have others recognize him as a distinct individual.

Understanding that, a writer could build an authentic, believable character—using nothing more than the 128 oz. of hair gel the character packs in his suitcase.



7 Responses to Packing Your Bags

  1. Emilie Buchwald March 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Lisa’s advice, as always, is right on the mark. The use of details works wonders in a text.

    • Lisa Bullard March 24, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

      Thank you, Emilie! Coming from you, this is high praise indeed!

  2. Joanne Toft March 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    So perfect! Amazing what little ones will think of – I love the 12 oz of hair gel. Thanks for a great post.

    • Lisa Bullard March 24, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks so much for coming along for the ride, Joanne!

  3. Linda Koch March 24, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

    I love this post, Lisa… and the time capsule. Thank you.

    • Lisa Bullard March 24, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

      You’re so welcome, Linda! It really is a fun activity–I hope you’ll try it yourself!

  4. Nina September 16, 2017 at 6:13 am #

    Wow! Light bulb moment! Thank you!

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