The Characters Box: a tool for inventing stories

Where can you begin to invent a story? There are endless possible starting points: one is this box. It contains “characters” catched from picture books for children. Here is how doing it. Look for a book with a character that appeared in different pictures, with various facial expressions and body positions. Then photocopy all these figure variations, cut out them (isolating them from the background) and put them in a small, nice box.

Characters from picture books

This special box could be placed next to the writing-drawing tools, at home, or in a classroom, and freely used by children. However, it is better if, for the first time, you present it trying to create a special atmosphere of suspence. “What is going to be inside? Who will come out from it?” When the character comes out, children are usually surprised and curious. Then, you can wonder and investigate together: who is he? What is she doing? What’s his name? Where does she live?

Invite children to take cues from the various facial expressions and postures of the figures, trying to imagine what may have happened to the character: why has he become sad? Where is she running? Who’s chasing her? What is he looking for? Who is she angry with? After children defined some features and events, you can also propose to deepen these elements by seeking information through books or other sources. For example, if the character lives in the ocean, why don’t look for books or web images about marine environments?

The story will slowly begin to take shape, until it will be completely defined. At this point, you can invite children to draw it, sticking the photocopies of the character in the right places. In addition to pencils and markers, you can eventually provide some colored papers and recicled fabrics. If there is a group of children, suggest every child to draw a different sequence, in order to represent the whole story.

Finally, all the drawings can be joined into a small book, with the cover, the title and the name of the authors. Children will be very proud of it… After a first experience like this, the box could be left freely available in the classroom or at home, and periodically present a different character: every new character is a surprise!

One day, Crocolou decides to go for a swim at the lake. But as he dives, a crocodile comes out of the water and bites him on his forehead.

Lupodrillo fighting against the wolves

Crocolou calls his wolf friends to help him. The wolves arrive and fight against the crocodiles. At the end of the fight, all wolves and crocodiles are full of bites and fall to the ground from exhaustion, so no one wins.

Lupodrillo coming back home

While the wolves and the crocodiles are fighting, Crocolou managed to escape to his grandmother’s house. The grandmother has prepared an inflatable pool for him, but Crocolou is now a little afraid of diving because the crocodile comes to his mind. In the end he dives.

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Many thanks to Nadhir, Riccardo and Giuseppe, authors of Crocolou story and to the authors of the characters, Ophélie Texier for Crocolou and Vincent Bourgeau for the little imp in the book “La boite à Jules”.

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You are very welcome to share your stories sending them to info@robertapuccilab.com or through a private message to the FB page Robertapuccilab. If you agree, I will public them in order to share stories with all the other children-authors.

Enjoy!