Description of Class
We often think of our characters — fictional or real — as generated from the inside out. Their personalities and desires exist because we create them that way. Or we probe their inner qualities first, believing it’s the best way to discover who they are.
But in this 4-week online course, we’ll explore our characters from the outside in, identifying the larger spheres — body, country, the past, religion — that surround and influence them.
What forces put pressure on them or impact their decisions? From which do they struggle to break free?
As writers, looking at these spheres can bring us a deeper understanding of action and motivation, whether we’re working with the characters in our fiction or the real people (or ourselves) we wish to capture. Looking outward can help us understand what’s within.
We’ll start small and expand: four spheres, each one larger than the next, over four themed weeks.
The body is much more than height and hair color, or obligatory detail for a writer. Instead, we’ll explore how physical traits, quirks, and body image determine our characters’ actions and desires.
The countries and communities we come from are the next sphere. What places do we call “home”, whether we never want to leave them or vow never to return?
We’ll move beyond what happened yesterday and ask what larger, social histories our characters have inherited. How much of their present is dictated by a past they haven’t personally experienced?
The final sphere is faith, spirituality, or simply the unknown. We’ll explore the friction that can result when intangible realms encounter our characters’ tangible realities.
Each week will feature a published reading by authors including Carmen Machado, Misham Hatar, Blair Hurley, and Simone Schwarz-Bart, along with discussion questions. Students will also complete a weekly assignment to share and receive feedback on from the instructor and other classmates.
The assignments will invite students to generate sketches and scenes for new characters, or develop existing ones more deeply. The lessons are applicable to both fiction and nonfiction, and writers of all levels are welcome.Top