At the heart of any story is character–a person that readers can connect with, root for, cry over, love (or love to hate), but most importantly, someone who is believably human. That’s quite a challenge for writers.
This class will investigate ways to bring our characters into complex life. We’ll explore essential tools such as creating voice, identifying desire, and capturing the concrete ways they move through the world. And we’ll also approach characters from the not-so-obvious angles. Students will put these principles into practice by completing weekly exercises.
The class welcomes both fiction and nonfiction writers, introducing skills that can help you generate characters for fiction or capture the people from your own life.
Week One: The Concrete
We’ll explore the concrete, direct ways that writers can shape a character’s personality, including appearance, name, possessions, and habitat.
Week Two: Voice & Dialogue
This week focuses on voice, the singular way of thinking and talking that defines how our characters communicate. We’ll practice dialogue and open our ears to what others have to say about our characters.
Week Three: Desire
We turn next to desire: what our characters want and why. We consider the benefits of making their lives difficult and ask the important question: what if our characters aren’t likeable?
Week Four: The Wider World
In this final module, the topic turns to ways that nonhuman entities (places, animals) can act as characters, and we examine the larger social forces that influence our characters.