If I’ve learnt anything through writing with children, it’s to keep the premise of the sessions simple and then watch as the magic unfolds under its own steam. I’m currently rediscovering the wonder of The Hobbit with my eldest daughter and the richness of the language gave me an idea for a workshop this week. Early in the book, there is a wonderful description of Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit himself which I read out to the group. I then asked them to come up with their own imaginary, fantasy character. The children made notes, honing in on physical characteristics before writing a paragraph of prose, describing their character in as much detail as possible. Finally I put them into pairs and they read out their descriptions whilst the other drew their partner’s character.
I’d actually like to share the Bilbo Baggins description because it’s so brilliant (especially the ‘deep fruity laugh’.) Here it is:
They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it.)
With this kind of language, it’s impossible really not to be sketching a picture in your mind, and this was my aim for the writing session, for the children to zoom in on those lovely little details that really bring a character to life.
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