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FICT 29 — Fiction Writing: Creating Unforgettable, Believable Characters

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Jul 12—Aug 16
Time: 6:30—9:30 pm
Drop Deadline: Jul 25
Unit: 1
Tuition: $490
Instructor(s): Ron Nyren
Limit: 21
Status: Closed
6:30—9:30 pm
Jul 12—Aug 16
6 weeks
Drop By
Jul 25
1 Unit
Ron Nyren
When asked what makes a character compelling, novelist Jennifer Egan replied, “contradictions—irreconcilable personality traits. Consistency is deadly in literary characterization, as in real people!” This course, suitable for writers at any level, will explore the elements that make fictional characters feel authentic, unpredictable, and believably contradictory. We will work on nudging characters into dramatically satisfying hot water that forces their contradictions to the surface, and we will consider how to connect readers with both likable and unsympathetic characters. Character will also serve as our springboard for discovering how the other major aspects of a story—including plot, dialogue, scene, point of view, and voice—can help reveal human nature in all its complexity. By reading and discussing short stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah, Richard Bausch, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Alice Munro, and a novel by Celeste Ng, we will investigate how these writers create memorable people. Weekly exercises will help students invent and refine their own characters and stories. Each student will turn in a short story or a novel chapter for workshop, where we will ask constructive questions and offer perspective for further development.

Ron Nyren, Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Ron Nyren’s fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, North American Review, Glimmer Train Stories, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. He is the co-author of Deepening Fiction: A Practical Guide for Intermediate and Advanced Writers and a former editor of Furious Fictions: The Magazine of Short-Short Stories. Nyren received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You (ISBN 0143127551)