These projects are called “creative” because they fit into the kind of work our culture conventionally sees as “creative.” In fact, creation, the making of something out of nothing, applies to them no more accurately than it does to the writing of expository essays, which themselves require a great deal of innovation when it comes to arguments and agendas.
Nor is there much accuracy to the word creation as it applies to either kind of work. As we will discover in this course, characters are never made out of nothing; indeed, they are never even made out of nothing literary, since characters tend to be transferred via conventions from text to text, and tend to be created out of combinations of literary precedents, as well as people in life (who themselves may in part invent themselves by using literary and non-literary character as precedent).
So these projects would more accurately called poetic, insofar as a poet is a maker, and a maker need not be one who uses nothing to make something–may in fact be one who uses all kinds of materials. Chaucer never made his characters out of nothing; he made his characters–and everything else he made–out of what he read. Nor did any of the other authors we are studying this term. But since poetic could, as a result of our own conventions, cause confusion about the nature of the projects below, we will call them creative, with the understanding that, in all other contexts in this course, we should use the term more advisedly.
You have a great deal of leeway in these projects. When you translate a character from one context to another (really, one text to another), all kinds of things may happen to that character, as characters are themselves composed of text (perhpas these projects will put you on a collision course with the question of what “text” actually is!). Similarly, when you introduce a new character into an old context (read “text”), all kinds of things may happen to that context! So perhaps the character’s way of speaking remains the same; perhaps it does not. Perhaps the character’s name remains the same; perhaps it does not. Perhaps the plot in which you have placed a new character remains the same; perhaps it does not. And perhaps the entire setting or historical moment or location in which you place a character remains the same; perhaps it does not. You may do what works best for the affect you are trying to achieve–comic? parodic? tragic? or what?
Here are the projects:
Your task for this project has three parts:
- Character Sketch. Come up with a character that would be new to a context we have already seen in our reading, and write a 250-500-word “character sketch” of that character. What is the character like in the abstract? What kinds of things motivate the character? What does the character look like (if relevant)? What are your primary sources for the character? If you wish, you may take the character from one or more pieces of fiction you have read–either for this class or in another context. Or you may take the character from life, though if you do this, you should do it in a way that will not ultimately embarrass or reveal things about a person that have not already been publicly revealed. In other words, if your source is life, you should be using a public character, rather than, say, what you perceive the character of your sibling or roommate. Of course, what you perceive as the character of your sibling or roommate may shape your sense of the public or fictional character you select. Make sure you name, or at least label the character in your character sketch. If your character sketch is enjoyable, witty, and fun, your readers and/or listeners (including the Professor) will smile.
- Introduce your character into an episode or setting one of the three texts we have already considered, from Rumpelstiltskin through the Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale. See what happens. Remember, you may do whatever you wish, as a result, to the names, setting, dialects, plot, dialogue, etc., as long as you can explain what you have done in part 3. This part of the project should be less than nine pages in length.
- Finally, write a 500 word explanation of what you have done in part 2, and what it shows about character.
- Character sketch of a character from one of the texts we have read this semester. write a 250-500-word “character sketch” of that character. What is the character like in the abstract? What kinds of things motivate the character? What does the character look like (if relevant)? What are your primary sources for the character?
- Create your own story, of which you are to make the character a part. The format may be of any kind (short story, play, letter, news report, etc.).\
- Write a 500-word explanation of what you have done in part 2, and what it shows about the character.