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CW 04 — Bringing Characters to Life: Heroes, Villains, and Ordinary People

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Saturday and Sunday
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 2 days
Date(s): Nov 4—Nov 5
Time: 10:00 am—12:30 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Oct 28
Unit: 0
Grade Restriction: NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Tuition: $270
Instructor(s): Ellen Sussman
Limit: 21
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Saturday and Sunday
10:00 am—12:30 pm (PT)
Nov 4—Nov 5
2 days
Refund Date
Oct 28
0 Unit
Grade Restriction
NGR only; no credit/letter grade
Ellen Sussman
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
In fiction writing, complex characters are always the most memorable ones—probably because real people embody that same complexity. So let's complicate the way we look at character development. Are your good guys too good? Are your bad guys too bad? How do we navigate the dynamics of conflict and connection while capturing the rich complexity of human beings that is the heart of all stories? In this course, we'll explore the ways in which you can make the hero of your novel, story, or memoir more heroic as well as more complex. What are their flaws? What are their strengths? What drives them? What haunts them? And then we'll do a deep dive into the villain in your story—or the antagonist who stands in the way of your hero's journey. What makes them so bad? Could they be more well-rounded? Can we make them more compelling as characters? Through in-class exercises, we'll breathe life into your characters. And we'll find ways to make readers truly invest in their stories. This work will benefit writers of memoir as well as fiction and will be appropriate for all levels, from beginning to published writers. Come to class with a project in mind or start something new and discover how to bring your characters to life on the page.


Ellen Sussman is the author of four novels: A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She is also the editor of two anthologies, Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. She has taught at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Rutgers.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.