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Writing Inspiration: Using Art to Spark Narrative Story Elements

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Arts +1 Age Levels Intermediate (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (12 to 15 years old), Post-Secondary, Adults, Primary (5 to 8 years old)
The Smithsonian museum collection inspires many to research the history behind artifacts, but this collection explores the use of art and artifacts to spark creative story writing. Students will choose artifacts to craft characters, a setting, and a plot conflict to create and write a narrative story.

Targeted Vocabulary: Narrative, protagonist , antagonist, character, character traits, setting, plot, climax, and conflict.

After reading and analyzing several narrative stories for story elements such as character, setting, plot, climax, and conflict, students will use this collection to begin planning their own narrative stories.
Individuals or partners will first view the portraits and discuss possible stories behind each face before choosing a protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters. They may begin to discuss and imagine character traits for each subject.
Next, the student will select a landscape setting in which the story may take place. The writer will describe the landscape, imagine a time period, and name the location.
Finally, the student will either choose an action artifact around which to build a major plot event, or have that slide as a minor scene in their story.
Students may use the Question Formulation Technique to garner ideas for background stories behind the faces. http://rightquestion.org/
Once the story elements are in place, the students may begin to draft narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

With the artifacts selected as the major story elements, the students may begin crafting their narrative story. The artifacts can then be displayed as illustrations in the published narratives.

Portrait of a Prelate

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait of Eleanor Garnier Hewitt

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait of a Woman, Looking Left

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Stanley Indian Portrait, standing figure

Smithsonian Archives - History Div

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Studio Portrait: Family [graphic]

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives

Portrait

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Portrait of an Old Man

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait of Conrad von der Rosen

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Portrait

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Lorenzo Dow Turner portrait

Anacostia Community Museum Archives

Eudora Welty, Portrait in a Minute

National Portrait Gallery

Portrait of African American woman

Anacostia Community Museum Archives

Portrait of a Man with Gun [graphic]

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives

Portrait of Marilyn

National Portrait Gallery

Studio portrait of children

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Children. Dahshur, Egypt, [negative]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Portrait of A Child

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Landscape

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

(Landscape)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape

Smithsonian American Art Museum

(Landscape)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Mexican Landscape

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Harlem Cityscape with Church

Smithsonian American Art Museum

(Untitled - Cityscape with Bridge)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

(Untitled) (Cityscape with Gas Station)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

One View of the LM Orion

National Air and Space Museum

Chinoiserie Fantasy

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Chinoiserie Fantasy

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Architectural Fantasy: Palace Interior

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Animals [series], circa 1877-1934

Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Dragon

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

The Furious Dragon

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Fight for Peace

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Stick fighting, Minshat Ramzi, Egypt, [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Fight of Women in Rome

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

lapel pin, Fight Infantile Paralysis

National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

1 World Manga [fighting AIDS], 2006 [color comic book]

Archives Center, National Museum of American History