Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fiction is Character

Writers talk a lot about character development.  Even in plot driven literature readers want characters whom they can relate to, like, dislike, care for, root for, dismiss.  What does a well-developed character look like though?  Essentially, the character will have depth – the complexity of everything which defines that character revealed through the writer’s craft.

How does a writer create depth in a character?  A few things to keep in mind:

1. Recognize the difference:  Not every character needs to be fully developed.  Some characters, referred to by English teachers as flat charactersm are written with only a few character traits, many times stereotypical, for the purposes of presenting a contrast to the main character or for highlighting something situational to the story.  These characters play a short role in the story and don’t need a lot of development.  The main characters, which the same teachers call round characters, however, need to be dynamic, meaning the writer allows the readers to see the many facets to the characters and that the characters change as they are affected by events in the story, changes which the readers are able to see as they read.

2.  Use perception:  In real life people see one another and the world differently.  That fact should be represented in stories as well.  As a writer “shows” scenes, the characters in a story can reveal bits and pieces about the other characters and the situations in the story.  Doing so gives the reader access to more perspectives which makes for a deeper understanding.  For example, seeing that a mother and a father view and respond to their daughter differently might tell a reader much about the daughter and her relationships to both.

3.  Think beyond the obvious:  Instead of describing physical traits or narrating factual information, help the reader to see the emotion or response elicited by the trait or fact or the feeling behind the trait or fact.  Descriptions help readers visualize a character but sometimes a literal description can be limiting.  Instead of saying a character is tall, dark and handsome, show the reader how the character’s height made another character feel or how attraction was immediate.  Then the reader imagines for him or herself what the physical description is while being drawn into the character more deeply.

4.  Embrace imperfections:  People are not perfect, and characters should not be either.  It’s the flaws, quirks, scars, which readers are usually drawn to, and those flaws, quirks, scars can serve as a foundation to the how, what and why’s of the character’s actions, thoughts and decisions which in turn creates depth to the character and also for the story line.

5.  Be photographic:  Choose a focal point for your character, a lens through which the writer can reveal bits and pieces to the reader.  In a photo some details are more in focus and some are more in the background.  As in real life, characters see some things more clearly and are dense to other aspects of their situations.  Maybe allow a reader to see the disparity within a character, or have the details slowly come to surface to help the reader see that there is more to the character than he or she first realized.

6.  Encompass the whole:  Remember that just as with real people, characters have a whole self – goals in life, wishes for betterment, secrets, strengths, weaknesses, past achievements, desires, hang-ups, etc.... These need to be seen by readers to varying degrees within the story.  As a writer, choices need to be made about which aspects of the whole self will be written in, but giving readers a sense that there is a whole self to the characters is what will draw the readers to the characters.

Paula Castner is a wife, mother of three, and a co-founder of Seven Bridge Writers' Collaborative as well as a freelance writer, playwright, writing and baking workshop facilitator, and drama director. She receives emails at

Monday, April 18, 2016

Congratulations to the Winners 
of the 2016 
Seven Bridge Writers' Collaborative
 Student Poetry Contest

Painting of Emily Dickinson by William Rock and Calligraphy by Huang Xiang

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. 
                                    Emily Dickinson

A word from this year's Judge, 
Christian Reifsteck, author of Turning Turf

It was an honor and pleasure to be asked to judge the Seven Bridge poetry contest, which had numerous quality submissions.  While it was fun to read your poems, it was difficult to choose the winners because there was something special in each poem that was submitted.  Poems are like people in that way:  each one has good qualities, something special, or a unique way of looking at the world. 

Whether you wrote your poem because your teacher made you or because it was fun or you just wanted to win, I encourage you to keep writing poems.  If you found something special in your experience of writing a poem, then you have found something special within yourself, and fostering that feeling is an important part of life.  Each of us is special, and each of us has interesting things to say, which means that we can all create poems that people will want to read.
Thank you for allowing me to read your poems, and best wishes for your writing!

The Winter Night 
It was a snowy night 
The wind blew and blew some snow away 
A snowshoe hare ran across the snow 
There was a light in a tree the hare was running to 
No one knew why 
Maela Griffin, grade 1 

I Like to Move It 
I like to move with the wind 
I like to move with my dreams 
I like to move with my heart 
Lillian Principe, grade 1 

Water, water is a thing 
It is so good, you can drink 
It is the one thing that 
Nothing is better 
Just drink water 
Ryan Carr, grade 1 

1 2 3 
Climb a tree 
Sing with me 
Will you be my friend? 
Lily Kifer, grade 1 

1 2 3 
Look at me 
The rain is raining down on me 
The rainbow is shining on me 
I’m hanging from a banana tree 
Maddy Krikorian, grade 1 

I’ve spotted 16 chicken pox, 
Now that’s 17. 
My elbow aches, 
My body bakes. 
I think I have a broken leg, 
My hair is falling out, 
and I’m going blind in my right eye. 
I have a green face. 
What’s that you say? 
It’s Saturday?! 
I’m going out to play! 
Eleanor Daly, grade

Dig A Hole 
If you want to dig a hole 
Make it deep 
Make it wide 
Add some water 
Like a tide 
Patrick Lynch, grade 2 

Living In Life 
Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring 
So much stuff to do. 
Grow up and up, 
Older and older. 
Be what you like! 
Either you’re a boy or a girl, 
Be what you like. 
Life is just like a time machine. 
Nathan Allison, grade 2 

The Rainbow 
The rainbow is pretty 
like the red roses. 
The orange is ripe 
as the inside of a sweet potato. 
The yellow is as bright as the sun. 
The green is like the grass. 
The blue is like the sky. 
Last but not least, 
purple is like a beautiful flower, 
big and bloomed. 
Ava Duvarney, grade 5 

Moonlight on Water 
Moonlight on the water shines so white and bright, 
I see it from my window in the middle of the night. 
Moonlight on the water forms a bridge from shore to shore, 
stretching far and endless to a place I’ve never been before. 
Then a man who is short and rough walks on the bridge 
like a man who’s tough. 
He walks across the bridge and then stops the end. 
He keeps going on, but how? 
He walks on the moonlight, that same starry night. 
Gracie Reisner, grade 3 

Horses Can 
Horses can be your very best friend. 
Horses can be ridden well. 
Horses can be your pal until the very end. 
Horses can be showed. 
Horses can be the best. 
If you just listen here, 
I’ll tell you why they are. 
Horses are the very best. 
This is why they are, 
You can love them and care about them, 
And they will surely give you the same. 
This is why they are. 
I hope you agree. 
Emily Schexnaydre, grade 3 

Ice Cream 
Ice cream is a nice dream. 
Ice cream makes me scream scream. 
Vanilla and caramel make a very good team. 
Ice cream that’s good makes me beam. 
I like it cold. I like it bold. 
I will even like it when I’m old. 
Riley Forhan, grade 3 

A land of stories where tales are told 
lies history and mystery 
of those young and old 
The treasure inside is wonderful 
so give it a true look 
The magic that these tales are 
is called a book 
Sofia Doucette, grade 4 

Cape Cod 
Dear Cape Cod, 
The roses and daisies and sunflowers, too. 
I had to leave you a year ago. 
I had to leave 
the beautiful waves, and seagulls, too. 
I had to leave 
the beautiful weather. 
I had to leave 
the bridge that leads to you. 
I had to leave 
the path we always took. 
I had to leave 
the sparkling sand. 
I had to leave 
the sunset colored shells. 
But most of all, I had to leave you. 
Anna McCarthy, grade 4 

Geckos, geckos everywhere, 
One might be in your hair! 
Oh, no… one licked Mr. Blare! 
Geckos, geckos, one bit me. 
I think one ate my cricket, Billy Gee! 
Geckos, geckos everywhere, 
45 of them on my chair! 
Geckos, geckos everywhere, 
One at Trump and his hair! 
Geckos, geckos everywhere, 
One is is now president and one flies through the air! 
Geckos, geckos everywhere, 
They took down the human race and are keeping pace!! 
Geckos, geckos everywhere, going to Mars, 
And that one ate my chocolater bar!! 
WAHHHHHHHHH! (they’re coming….) 
Michael DiTullio, grade 4 

You stay 
asleep all these 
Everyone thinks you’re 
a sleeping giant 
but now you 
Woke up! 
Andrew Malkowski, grade 4 

Call of the Mountain 
There it stands, Towering, Menacing, Daring us to climb 
Standing there all alone against the sunrise 
It’s snow capped peak points up to heave 
There it stands, there it stands, all alone, there it stands 
There on the mountainside a river flows 
Swiftly down as the pale sun gleams 
Over rock, cliff, and packed down earth 
There it flows, there it flows, swiftly down, there it flows 
There the plants and trees will grow 
Tall and high as the sun spikes 
They will the water, ground and sky 
There they grow, there they grow, tall and high, there they grow 
There the birds and beast all sing 
A mournful song as the sun begins to set 
Of times long ago and yet to come 
There they sing, there they sing, a mournful song, there they sing 
There the song will never end 
Though sound will cease and night will fall 
There the song goes on evermore 
Never end, never end, there the song, will never end 
Jonathan Castner, grade 5 

Dragon Wings Glitter Bright 
Dragon wings glittering bright 
A thing of glory, of strength, of might 
As the shape flies overhead 
Its fire drains the dark from night. 
Hunting at the break of dawn 
A massive shape within the sky 
There at first and, after, gone 
Grasping prey and filled with pride. 
Eyes filled with a yellow glow 
Heating scales burn through the snow 
Twist and glide about cirrus clouds 
Mountains, rivers, far below. 
Allie Hunter, grade 5 

To Make A Poem 
To make a poem, 
you need to walk through your door, 
you need to listen to the elephant trumpeting, 
To make a poem you need to ride the elephant’s back. 
To make a poem, 
you need to walk through your door, 
you need to listen to the waves, 
To make a poem you need to swim in the salty ocean. 
To make a poem, 
you need to walk through your door, 
you need to listen to the trees sway, 
To make a poem you need to climb up the tree. 
To make a poem, 
You need to walk through your door, 
You need to walk with the tall giraffes, 
To make a poem you need to ride on the neck of the giraffe. 
To make a poem, 
you need to walk through your door, 
you need to listen, 
To make a poem you need to imagine. 
Emily Cote, grade 5 

Summer what 
a bummer it is the 
fourth of July. Family 
promised to make a pie they 
didn’t. Summer Summer what 
a bummer my god we had to 
plummer. My little cousin shot an 
firework down the toilet the water is 
boiling the water is broiling now all we 
have is scorching hot water my family is 
good my family is great 
all good families make 
some % bad % mistakes 
Zack Frommer, grade 5 

Bag of Dreams 
She carries a bag of dreams for sale, 
and she leaps across the land of mind 
managing our nighttime thoughts. 
People unconsciously buy them 
night after night... 
until we are left broke 
and all that is left of our slumber 
is a black blur of nothingness. 
We are left without the remembrance 
of our dreams 
sold by a girl who leaps 
across our thoughts. 
A blur of a night, 
at the beginning of a day, 
because of the little girl, 
who ran away. 
Sophia Atkins, grade 6 

Don’t let looks deceive you: 
there are treasures hidden underneath, 
Small relics, 
From Mother Nature herself, 
as hands reach into the cold, dark sand, 
digging up a thousand memories. 
Don’t let looks deceive you: 
there are treasures hidden within, 
the currency of memories, 
catching fireflies under a blanket of stars, 
the hot sand burning our feet, 
our sun-kised faces from rebellious “no sunscreen” beliefs, 
are worth a thousand lifetimes. 
Bridget Bailey, grade 6 

Drink of Your Dreams 
It sits there 
It sits there 
It wasn’t always empty 
But it is now 
It was once filled with 
The drink of your dreams 
A smoothie 
Some juice 
Even a soda 
Whatever it has to be 
But it’s empty now 
Haley May, grade 7 

We fall 
We scream 
We cry 
We wish 
To the point where our soul shatters 
Broken into a million pieces 
We seek for others to pick them up 
But when we search too long and hard 
The pieces begin to melt 
They burn it into our souls and mind that the world is nothing but 
Forsaking Darkness 
We’re lost in the unfairness of it all 
Nothing is fair 
We all break 
Fall on our knees before our past 
We want people to carry us away from it all 
But it is not until we realize that only we 
Can be be the ones to carry ourselves through life with a smile 
That our imperfections make us whole 
Margo Sonia, grade 6 

don’t let it subside while drifting off 
while a dream takes flight 
feeling like a ball of yarn left on a shelf 
from a few winters back that can’t seem to make a scarf 
but kept because the hope always (always) lingers 
maybe it’ll turn into something someday 
useful instead of contained in this knot of angst and comfort 
cold breezes are the best debaters: convince you of things that hadn’t even been said 
but maybe they were whispered in winds 
where you left your jacket 
in pursuit of something warmer, love perhaps 
but settled for acquaintanceship which can’t keep a bitter winter out 
Like feathers piled under shiny fabric 
there’s no grey when piles surround you 
sheets of paper cannot be refuted 
by snowflakes of your love 
if everyone is unique 
I understand if I’m your winter and come springtime; a new time 
I will be left to shovel ashes of letters into piles 
that will never melt 
Isabel Stringfellow, grade 10 

Circadian Rhythm 
she admitted she wasn’t a little girl 
when she couldn’t recall 
the consumption of a full meal 
without guilt that 
like some mental illness 
rooted in gaunt aspirations 
was to be worshipped 
she had a mirage of dreadful quirks 
she would shake at times 
she constantly contemplated numbers when in distress 
she preferred a shroud of secrecy to human facades 
depression is not an abnormal condition 
for a form partitioned between existences 
she agreed to compromise: the gesture of a people-pleaser 
to soothe her beloved and compulsion 
yet soon enough each 
would shrilly scream in gripe 
Isabelle Susi, grade 12 

The Shadows 
The trees were bent and seemed to twist and turn to face the light 
As it strove to burn the shadows up and sanitize the night. 
The pause, the wind, the rolling wave, the echo of “fire next time” 
From the cloud-base sunset, ever so still, a breeze and a brief daytime. 
Now trees are printed on the ground, calligraphy in ash 
The script of life, once written here, was written far too rash. 
The forest floor is bleached and burned, there’s only shadows left 
Lives erased, writ down again, a human palimpsest. 
Here people walked beside a wall - a frieze in black and white. 
Here this one saw the mirror shine – a strange daguerreotype. 
The people who stood, and stared, amazed, but knew what lay in store 
A wisp of smoke, a shadowy grave, and, with luck, something more 
They watch the sun go up again, and think of brighter things - 
For all that breath is certain death, a longer life it brings. 
Alexander Mills, Grade 12 

Ghost Town 
No one would sleep in that town, deserted as a doorframe; 
Ghosts groan at its gates, searching for souls lost long ago; 
Dust scattered and settled, 
Covering slowly all that was left behind, 
Trailing behind, lost, forgotten, broken memories, like shadows. 
And what a lonely piano! - 
Notes wailing as last words, 
Isolated sounds, friendless, homeless; 
Houses, saloons, hotels, struggling to stay alive; 
All hanging onto their history: 
Even the tumbleweeds have a story to tell. 

Hannah Castner, grade 10 

Writing is brave work, sharing that work is even braver. SBWC celebrates all the students, teachers, and our judge, the poet Christian Reifsteck, who take our heads off with their love of poems and poetry. 


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Get the word out!

Poetry Open Mic
Sunday, April 17, 2016

5 minute reading limit, no pre-registration

2 - 4 p.m.
The Parlor, First Church of Christ, Unitarian
725 Main Street, Lancaster, Massachusetts

Monday, April 11, 2016

Upcoming Workshop

Seven Bridge Sessions 

A Path to Inspiration: Mindfulness and Creativity for Writers
With Eowyn Ahlstrom

Saturday, April 16, 2016
10:30 a.m.  – 12:30 p.m.
Thayer Memorial Library, Dexter Thayer Room

In this workshop, we will explore the relationship between mindfulness, embodiment, and creativity, especially as it relates to writing. The session will include guided mindfulness practices, guided creativity practices, and an introduction to the myriad, delightful ways these relate to and can support each other. There will also be time for questions and discussion. Designed for a varied audience, the program will engage beginners to meditation and writing, as well as those with years of experience. 

Eowyn Ahlstrom, LMT, RYT first encountered meditation and yoga more than twenty years ago and has been practicing avidly ever since. She trained to teach at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness and the Karuna Center for Yoga and Healing Arts. Over the years, Eowyn has made mindfulness practice central to her life, attending many silent meditation retreats and yoga practice courses.  Based at Listening Wellness Center in Barre, MA, Eowyn now teaches regionally and is a faculty member at the Center for Mindfulness. Her offerings include weekly classes, eight-week Mindfulness-Based Sress Reduction courses, yoga for retreats at the Insight Meditation Society, and an in-depth nine month program, which she developed to re-integrate yoga and mediation, entitled” Living Yoga, Living Mindfully.”  Her approach to practice and teaching is holistic, with a strong emphasis on embodiment. You can learn more through her website,

For more information, please contact us at