Sunday, November 22, 2009

Take THAT!

I am sitting in a hotel room in sunny Philadelphia, where the National Council for Teachers of English is having its annual convention. Fellow Hamline prof Alexandria LaFaye put together a panel on using fantasy in the classroom with Bruce Colville (!) and me. Bruce is hilarious--though given his books it would be odd if he were quite dour in person. It's great to be around so many English teachers, but I found myself hyperconscious of the things I said. I didn't want to land in their Stinkpots.

Kerry Madden put this picture up on her blog this morning. This was done by a high school student named Rayna McGuire, inspired by Charles Baxter's advice to get your characters up a tree and throw apples at them.

Poor characters. The things they go through just to exist.


  1. When I heard this expression from Jane Resh Thomas during my first semester, I was so confused. I couldn't imagine what she meant. The more I thought about it, I disliked the idea of having something bad happen to my characters. I seriously had a dream soon afterward about perfect characters who never had any problems. I woke up determined never to write any characters as eternally boring as those dream-gods. In one sense it feels like picture books of a lost puppy are the easy way out: The problems are light, if not small. I don't think this is true. The shorter the book, the more intense the problem. Now, how do I make people laugh, that's a bigger character issue?

  2. I know. I have a hard time with this, too. It's so hard to give life to these people and then abuse them. I've come to terms with doing that with people--can't do it with animals.