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What happens to you when you read?
What happens to you when you read?

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5.2 Creative writing

The act of writing ‘in’ the voice of a character from something we have read can help us to observe that character in an even more detailed way. It is possible that writing like this can deepen a reader’s involvement with a story due to the encouragement to move closer to the perspective of a character.

In the extract in the previous section, which focuses on Will, we are given a sense of how he has dealt with the unfolding situation concerning his mother.

Activity 6 Creative writing activity

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes for this activity.

For this writing activity we would like you to write four or five sentences in the voice of Will. You should use the first person in your writing (e.g. using ‘I’ or ‘me’).

Here are some scenarios you can chose from:

Will explains how he felt in the supermarket as if speaking to a sympathetic school-teacher.

Will gives reasons why his mum should stay with him and not be taken away, as if speaking to a visiting social worker.

Will gives his class at school the reasons he has decided to be an explorer.

Note: There are no ‘wrong’ answers in this activity. It’s a chance to use your own imagination and to experience something of what goes on inside an author as he or she attempts to bring characters to life.

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How did you feel doing this kind of writing? Did you find that you included Will having deep realisations in what you wrote? Did you find that you maintained that sense of saddened innocence which seems to characterise Will in the extract?

Now might be a good time to reflect on how the empathy task you did earlier might relate to your experience of reading the extract. When you answered the questions relating to the empathy scale (the IRI) you may remember you answered questions relating to personal distress, empathic concern, fantasy scale and perspective taking (which were the four different subscales).

Because the fantasy scale relates to your propensity to imagine you are a different character, you might expect that to relate to identification. As a result, you might find that if you scored highly on the fantasy scale of the empathy questions, you might also identify quite strongly with the characters in your favourite books, and you may also find you identified with Will in this extract.

The optional writing task also invited you to ‘write three or four sentences in the voice of the character’ and this instruction relates strongly to the concept of perspective taking. If you took part in this exercise it is possible that it might have allowed you to move closer to the perspective of Will.

Identification with a character is just one of the psychological processes that can happen to you when you read. In the next section you will encounter another similar psychological process, after the next bit of reading we’ll ask you to do.