Friday, June 26, 2020

MY Favorite Grab ‘N’ Go Writing Exercise: The Name Poem!

This month my fellow TeachingAuthor bloggers and I are putting forth our favorite Writing Exercises for you to grab and go.
April shared her new In One Word poetry form, Bobbi her favorite Writing Workshops, and Gwendolyn her practice of typing out favorite texts and/or passages,
Carmela advised us to try something new and Mary Ann reposted her Creative Eavesdropping exercise.
My favorite Writing Exercise is an Oldie-but-Goodie, too: The Name Poem.

I came upon this exercise serendipitously when my Holiday House editor Mary Cash requested I drop my character Howie Fingergut’s grade from Fifth to Fourth.
I of course said: “Of course!” šŸ˜Š
But it was fifth graders I knew like the back of my hand. I’d never taught fourth graders.
It was a few weeks later, while seated in a Fourth Grade classroom at The Frances Parker School in Lincoln Park, that my eyes zeroed in on the Name Poems dotting the walls.
Name Poems?
Name Poems!
I could define my character Howie and his singular world view with but 5 adjectives! Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier?

Howie’s name poem not only helped me nail Howie. It helped me nail his heart and thus, what he was after.  Howie, it turns out, had longed to change his “I” word to “Important.”

I recommend my students and writers create Name Poems for their characters.
I don’t know why but this exercise always works.

What also works, though, is to create a Name Poem for yourself!
It’s a sure-fire way to see just where your story crosses paths with your character’s.
Katherine Paterson wrote that, when it comes to our characters, it’s simply “one heart in hiding…reaching out to another.”

Imagine my smile when I discovered just how much I had in common with Howard J. Fingerhut.

For the record, once you grab this exercise to define your character and/or yourself, choosing defining adjectives isn’t the only way to go. Think about verbs, nouns and even favorite expressions.

Thanks to Karen’s Got A Blog for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Happy Writer-Muscle-Building!

Esther Hershenhorn


Karol Ruth Silverstein said...

My name poem:

K – kooky
A – articulate Aries
R – resourceful realist
O – often ornery but always open
L – laughingly lovable

Esther Hershenhorn said...

thanks for creating your Name Poem, Karol.
You sound like a terrific book character, especially the "laughingly loveable" despite any perceived quirks. :)

April Halprin Wayland said...

I hadn't thought about using a name poem to help me zero in on a character, Esther. What a wonderful shortcut across the overgrown grass of character building!

So, let me see:

A -awakening
P -playful
R -resourceful
I -idealistic
L -loyal

Thanks for giving me a quick game to play...and making me think, Esther <3