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Meme-Inspired Writing Activity (Character Development)

Written by Mindy Early
June 28, 2014

Many of the young writers I work with have trouble crystallizing their character's main desire, secret, fear, or conflict, and how that connects to their play or story at large. This new activity I cooked up uses the structure of memes to help writers begin to hone in on that concept. Early next week I'll be posting Meme-Inspired Writing Activities Part II on my blog, where I'll share the other two activities I have bubbling in my brain.  (One is a revision-based activity that I'm so geeked out to try on myself as I slog through revisions on a Young Adult novel!)

MEME-INSPIRED IDEA GENERATION

Genres: Prose, Playwriting

Writing Process: Character Development, Idea Generation, Conflict

Version #1 – For Groups

To do this activity with a group…


  1. Select a meme with a formula that’s beneficial for exploring
    character. For example, the Morpheus meme, “What if I told you…” is a
    great meme to use if you’d like participants to explore character
    through the lens of ‘mind-blowing’ secrets, fears, or desires. Or, the
    Futurama Fry formula of “Not sure if…/ Or…” is fantastic for having
    participants explore a character in conflict, torn between two choices.

  2. Find one or several photographs that feature a single person in a
    setting. (Searching a phrase like “casual portrait photography” is a
    great way to start.)

  3. Choose which method of “meme” you’d like your participants to interact with. You can…



...that a writing activity using memes is possible?     

…that a writing activity using memes is possible?





Do a ‘Meme Sticky Note’ Method.


  1. Make small print outs of the original meme, placing a blank box
    wherever you’d like participants to fill in text. You can see my example
    using the Morpheus meme in the photo above.  (And find the templates for this and the Futurama Fry meme sticky notes here.)

  2. Make a “gallery” on the walls by taping up the photos you’ve selected.

  3. Have participants use the meme notes to post imaginary information
    about the person in the picture. For example, if participants are using
    the Morpheus meme, instruct them to write a “mind-blowing” fear, secret,
    or desire for each individual. (Two great questions to ask as prompts
    are, “What are fears, secrets, or desires you would expect this individual to have just by looking at him or her?” and “What are fears, secrets, or desires you wouldn’t expect this individual to have just by looking at him or her?”) Have the participants post their notes next to each corresponding photograph.

  4. Ask participants to stand by the photograph that resonates with them
    the most. Then, instruct them to choose a meme note that is not their own that interests them as a writing prompt.

  5. Let the writing begin! If you think it would help your participants,
    you can give them a required first sentence or a required first line of
    dialogue.



…or…
hairsized-urban-ghost-street-photography-new-york     

Based on the Morpheus meme.





Do a ‘Meme Portrait’ Method


  1. Take the framework of a meme, and impose that framework on the
    photo(s) you have selected. Place a blank white box wherever you’d like
    participants to fill in text. Here are two examples. The above uses the “What if I told you…” Morpheus framework, and the one below
    uses the “Not sure if…/Or…” framework of the Futurama Fry meme.

  2. Spread out photographs you’ve selected, and let each of the students
    choose the photo that resonates with them. Or, have all participants
    focus on the same photograph, and pass out a copy of that photograph to
    each participant.

  3. Have participants use the meme blanks to write imaginary information
    about the person in the picture. For example, if participants are using
    the Futurama Fry meme, instruct them to imagine two choices that this
    person could be torn between. (Two great questions to ask as prompts
    are, “What are two choices you would expect this individual to be torn between just by looking at him or her?” and “What are two choices you wouldn’t expect this individual to be torn between just by looking at him or her?)

  4. Once all the participants have filled in the blanks, have them make a “gallery” on the walls in by taping up their photos.

  5. Have participants stand by a meme portrait that is not their own that interests them as a writing prompt. More than one student can choose the same portrait.

  6. Let the writing begin! If you think it would help your participants,
    you can give them a required first sentence or a required first line of
    dialogue.



There's also a version of this activity for individual writers that can be found here. Hope you enjoy!