Ice-breaker: Making Yourself a Character

This is an exercise I created to be performed on the first day of class. It’s an introduction to one another and an introduction to creative non-fiction.

Everyone gets 5 index cards and 5 different colored pens, markers, crayons, pencils, lipstick, etc. Whatever you can find!

On each of the five cards, there will be different writing prompts. Each of which should be written in the third person–No “I”. Write about yourself like you’re talking about a character.

1.) On the first card, write your name and one random fact about yourself. It could be that your favorite band is One Direction or it could be that when you were five years old, you stole a dollar from your mother’s purse. The fact needs no explanation. We don’t need to know why you took the money or where your love for boy bands came from. Just give us the fact.

Ex: “Mae Worthington learned how to curse when she was 10 years old.”

2.) On the second card, write about something you lost. It could be something significant, like a family heirloom, or something small–like a pink pen. Write how old you were when you lost it, where you were, and a random fact about that point in your life. 

Ex: “In the seventh grade, Mae Worthington lost a $300 coat that her mom bought her a few weeks earlier. She couldn’t remember where she had it last, or where it could have been. Maybe someone stole it, maybe out of malice, or hate. Or maybe, someone needed it more. She was too afraid to tell her mother, so she walked out of the gymnasium (her team had just won), without a jacket in December.”

3.) On the third card, write the least interesting thing about you. 

Ex: “Mae Worthington’s shoes are black.”

4.) On the fourth card, write about an element of pop-culture that has impacted your life. This could be anything from a song, movie, book, musician, politician, television show, etc. that changed your life. It doesn’t need to be significant. It doesn’t have to be your high school graduation song or the quote from your grandmother’s funeral. It could be anything! The more insignificant, the better!

Ex: “Mae stood outside the car while he changed the tire. She was wearing the flannel he bought for her and a pair of black Converse sneakers. The rubber soles absorbed the snowy, January air, and sent shivers up her spine. “Misery Business,” played from inside the car, and the chills got worse. She couldn’t tell if that was a good sign or a bad sign. They met at a Paramore concert two summers ago, and the heat faded with the falling leaves, leaving her standing in the snow, pretending to be the girl he wanted her to be.”

5.) On the final card, describe your childhood bedroom. Show us the colors of the walls and make us feel your childhood exuberance. Show us the pattern of your sheets and the shapes your tears left on the pillow. Tell us what posters covered your walls and what colors filled your closet. Bring us on a tour.

Ex: “Mae grabbed the paint roller, drenching it in canary yellow. Her mother wouldn’t let her paint it bright orange, like she wanted, so she settled for less vibrance. She rolled a diagonal yellow line across the faded lilac of her childish walls. Mae wanted to paint over the butterflies and rip down the poster for Lance Bass’ new movie. This was step one to adulthood—-creating your own space. She finally had her own phone and computer in her room. This is what middle school was all about, or so she thought. But what she didn’t realize was that yellow paint wouldn’t cover the mascara tears and acne scars of her future—-nothing would.”

Now that you have all of your index cards filled out, mix them up. Randomize the order and take turns reading them aloud!

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