LONGMONT -- Like acquaintances who pass through our lives, minor characters in a novel sometimes are overlooked or easily forgotten.
Skyline High School sophomores, however, are taking a special interest in the minor characters in Walter Dean Myers' "Monster" as they work through a unit on choices and consequences.
Working in groups, they have chosen minor characters from that book, developed backstories and created videos telling that character's life story.
"It takes a lot of creativity," English teacher Casey Luker said.
The story is about a 16-year-old boy who is in jail, awaiting trial for felony murder because someone was killed during a robbery in which he was involved.
The novel lends itself to being adapted for video because it is written as a screenplay, complete with camera directions.
"It made a nice natural connection," said Ben Everson, another English teacher.
Each group of students chose a different minor character -- most are in jail or in gangs -- but many of their backstories are similar.
Luis Trejo and his group chose Bobo, who was arrested for breaking and entering.
"He has a pretty bad life. He gets in trouble with some bad stuff," Trejo said.
The video begins with a 7-year-old Bobo wanting to be like Michael Jordan, then moves to the 12-year-old Bobo picking up one of his parents' cigarettes and sneaking off to smoke with his friends, Trejo said.
As part of their assignment, students had to include one scene from the novel. For Bobo, that was the scene of the robbery, which they included at the end of the video.
Salvador Serrano said the assignment has been interesting.
"You have to think more. You have to make it look good," Serrano said.
The unusual assignment forces students to think about characterization and practice revealing details of characters, Everson said.
Using the cameras and making the videos increases students' interest in the project and their skills with the cameras -- something they likely will need in the future, he said.
"These kids will be at something of an advantage," and their skills will translate to different projects or technology, Everson said. About half the students had not used the cameras before, he said.
Brenda Gutierrez and her group focused on Isbaldo Cruz, a 14-year-old who helped rob the store because he became involved in a gang, she said. They chose that character because "there would be more of a backstory that we could think about," Gutierrez said.
The most difficult part of the assignment? "Having to get into character and be those people," she said.
Developing a character has helped Gutierrez think about more than novels, however.
"There's a reason everyone's the way they are," she said. "Everyone has a backstory."