Bye Bye Billy – Creating Characters in Poetry

By Roger Stevens, poet and co-author of ‘It’s Not My Fault’

The summer holidays are here at last. And I expect you will all be outside enjoying the sunshine, running about in the fields chasing cows or investigating rocky pools at the seaside and hiding crabs in Grandpa’s shoes. Anyway, they are all the things I loved doing when I was at school. The only problem in the long summer school holiday was when my friends went away, to Spain or somewhere exotic like Bognor, and I was still at home. Then I had no one to play with. So I invented an imaginary friend. My imaginary friend was called Billy. He was very different from me. I was very good when I was a child and I never did ANYTHING naughty and I NEVER got in to trouble. But Billy was always getting up to mischief.

Bye Bye Billy

Roger Stevens

Billy left my bedroom in a mess
Billy hid the front door key
Billy posted Mum’s credit cards through the floorboards in the hall
Billy ate the last jam doughnut
Billy broke the window with his ball
Billy forgot to turn off the hot tap
Billy put the marbles in Grandpa’s shoe
Billy broke Dad’s ruler seeing how far it would bend
But now I’m twelve and Billy’s gone
I’ll miss my imaginary friend

The poem’s from our new book, It’s Not My Fault. It makes a good model poem. You could try it with your own children, nephews, nieces, grandchildren or neighbour’s children (when they get bored playing on their i-devices) – or with your class, back at school.

First, start with a few character details. When I do this in a class, often as a prelude to writing a story, I ask a series of questions and encourage the children to write the answers quickly, without thinking about them too much. Is your friend a he or a she? How old is your friend? Is your friend big, small, short or tall? Is your friend blond or dark? What hobbies does your friend have? Is your friend a human? What is his/her name?

Next, I ask the children to make a list of all the things that they would LIKE to do – but are not allowed. This works well either as a class activity, or in small groups, as one idea can spin off another idea. Encourage the children to be as naughty and outrageous as possible; although you will probably need to discourage violent or rude ideas. Tell them you are looking for “clever” ideas rather than simply introducing the word “poo” into the list whenever possible for cheap laughs. They could talk about things that actually happened in their own families.

Now choose the best of the ideas and write them in a list. Look at the list and rearrange the events in the best order. It might end with the most outrageous thing, for example.

My poem ends with the narrator growing up, and Billy leaving. And so you might discuss ways for them to end their poem. Finally, check for spelling and read the poem out loud. It should have a nice flow and sound to it.

And in the meantime, enjoy the sunshine, and chasing the cows. Have a great summer.

Not my fault.jpg

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s