One of the biggest pleasures I have while writing is when the characters come through loud and clear. Dennis Alexander was one of those characters for me. The minute he slouched in, I knew he was a kid who sits in the back of the class so he can lean his chair against the wall. The kind of guy who’d rather be outdoors than cooped up in a classroom. And someone that hadn’t stayed long in any school, but kept moving around. Not a bad kid, but one who doesn’t have much interest in “the rules”.
As I read through the Tweets made during the classroom experience at Exploris Middle School, a few choice phrases captured me. A small group of boys creating rage in others by throwing paper. Of course there was paper throwing going on. Sabotage begins… Yelling and paper throwing. I couldn’t resist putting this detail in the story. And Dennis had to be the one to start it. No question.
I love little moments like this that help give the reader a sense of the character on the page. Dennis wouldn’t think twice about starting a paper throwing war, while Ellen Chandler, his polar opposite, would rather die than be involved in throwing paper around. Dennis also has the perfect justification for his actions … after all the teachers had told them they had won a war, right? From 7th Grade Revolution:
Dennis kicked back against the wall and ripped a page from his notebook. He folded the paper accordion style and tore it into strips. After all, what was a revolution without ammunition? He took each strip and rolled it into a tight ball. Perfect. Just like a musket ball.