You can’t be emotional about a thing.
That’s a common refrain. You can’t feel anything about an object or a building because they’re just things. They have no feelings. They can’t return or respond with any emotion you give them.
Except for the fact that we have emotional attachments toward things all the time.
Explore the concept of emotional attachment with this exercise. Start off with a class discussion about an object or a place that you yourself have an emotional attachment to. Ask students, “Why do we feel emotion toward things that can’t return the favour? What does it mean to feel mad, sad, pride or love to an object or building? What are these emotions attached to?”
Look at the picture in the downloadable version of this exercise. Answer the following questions:
1. Where is this building?
2. What is this building, or what did it used to be?
3. What happened here recently?
Next create a character who has an emotional attachment to the place in the picture. For example: The building looks like an abandoned school, destroyed by a fire. The character is an orphan and spent their childhood at the school. They hate the building and they’re glad that it’s abandoned because of the miserable memories.
Based on their emotional attachment, create a few details for the character. For example: This character is in his 50’s, his name is Alan, he is tall, fit and wears an expensive suit. He has worked his whole life to overcome his bad childhood. He’s a CEO and arrived at the building in a limo. But he still can’t shake his memories.
Write a monologue with this information as the inspiration: The specific emotional attachment, and the character details.
In the monologue the character is looking at the building as it is now, talking about how they feel.
Define a listener for the monologue. Who are they talking to? Why are they sharing their feelings? Why are they sharing in this exact moment? For example: Alan is talking to his limo driver because he’s the one person he trusts. It’s a secret that Alan was an orphan and he knows his driver will never talk.
Define how the character talks. It’s important for all characters to have a specific character voice. For example: Alan is a CEO and has worked to overcome his past. He uses big words. He never uses slang.
Lastly have the character’s emotion change throughout the monologue. Change is important in monologues. For example: Alan starts out angry because of the memories and ends happy because he has changed his life. He’s glad the building is run down.
Give students time to work on their monologues. Have students share them in small groups and submit them for assessment.
Discuss the writing afterward with students. What is it like to write for a character who is attached to a place? How might students use this exercise in their future writing?