When a character is in trouble, as all protagonists should be, she can seem unsympathetic if she’s focused only on her own problems. Her unhappiness, worry, and frustration may result in a character who appears judgmental, short-tempered, rude, and who wants to read about someone like that? The answer is that we all do, but only if she’s complex enough to make us identify with and root for her, and the story ultimately shows her transcending those tendencies. This class will incorporate general methods for creating characters but with an emphasis on unlikeable ones, sharing examples and specific techniques for evoking reader sympathy and depicting character growth. Whether you write fiction or creative nonfiction, come ready to practice each technique by focusing either on a character of your own or one provided. You will finish with a handout, notes, and generated writing.
Students in this class will each have at least one story critiqued by classmates and the instructor in a university-designed salon workshop. They will study craft fundamentals such as characterization, plot, and the function of details. Published stories will be analyzed as models, and exercise prompts will serve as craft practice. Each participant’s voice and style will be nurtured with a focus on ambition, an emerging sense of form, syntactical grace, editing and grammar.