One fun part-time job I had right after college involved face paint and balloon animals. I was a clown. I performed at kids parties, corporate picnics, and restaurant openings. I blew bubbles, used silly voices, sang and danced, and yes, I created balloon art. Clowns and balloons go together like books and readers. I used those long, slender balloons that are easy to inflate and twist into colorful, creative shapes. I learned from my fellow clown friends how best to blow up balloons quickly and found that I had the talent for a basic balloon repertoire: dog, sword, hat, and giraffe. The problem for this clown occurred when a child asked for something different from my usual fare, such as a balloon mermaid or pirate. Uh, oh.
No clown wants to disappoint a child. I’d try, but after much twisting and many loud pops, I’d grin my big clown grin and tell a funny story in a silly voice to make up for my lack of ballooning skills.
Now I use some of those clowning skills I learned when I write picture books and novels. It’s fun to act out my characters—sometimes with silly voices—and the twist and turn of every sentence matters, whether the story is 32 or 300 pages long. Writing stories and making balloon art both require patience and the ability to self-edit. Too many twists and turns in a story can affect the believability for a reader. Or, if characters and plot aren’t fully developed they can feel limp to readers in the same way that lack of air can make a balloon too limp to use and too much air can make it pop.
My ultimate goal in writing fiction is to inflate my stories with an equal balance of character and plot.
Prompt #19: Inflate a scene. Choose a character from one of your current writing projects or from a book you’re currently reading. This character is at a circus and is pulled out of the crowd by one of the clowns. Your character is in the middle of the tent in front of the crowd. Does your character join in the clown fun? Does the spotlight bring out some new twist in your character? What happens when your character is given a special balloon animal?
Alison Ashley Formento is the author of multi-award-winning nature picture books THIS TREE COUNTS!, THIS TREE 1, 2, 3, THESE BEES COUNT!, THESE SEAS COUNT! and THESE ROCKS COUNT! (2014). Her debut young adult novel TWIGS is published by new imprint Merit Press Books, helmed by The New York Times bestselling author, Jacquelyn Mitchard. Alison has written for publications including The New York Times, The Writer, Parenting and numerous international and regional magazines.
To learn more about Alison click here.by