Draw out a grid three columns wide and 5 rows deep.
In the first column write five devised names by mixing found first names and surnames. This could be done by looking along any bookshelves – or from your own knowledge and invention.
In the second column, next to each name, jot down two facts about the character with this name. In the third column write down a question or something unknown about the character.
Name Facts Question
Bear Brown Placid, inoffensive yes-man He has a beard Why doesn’t he stick up for himself?
Sian Sacco Dyes her hair Has no father What will she do when war is declared?
Georgie Morrison 93 years old Locked herself in the bathroom at the age of 6 What does she blame herself for?
Dr Samira Walker Shops at Aldi Is an illegal immigrant When did she start smoking?
Jonathan McGregor 25 years old Autistic Who loves him most of all?
If you’re on your own, work your way across the grid. Left to right, choosing any name, any facts, any question. Think for a minute. Next, write freely for 10 minutes or so. You may diverge, you may choose not to include all the elements, but try and keep the writing and ideas flowing. If you’re working with others, you won’t need to invent more than one row – one name, two facts, one question. Simply exchange grids and write. Then share. It will be fascinating to hear how others have resolved the challenge you have set them.
The National Writing Project UK is a research project supported by NATE, the National Association for the Teaching of English. Contact NWP.