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WSP 308 — Writing the Compelling Character: Mind, Heart, and Guts

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Saturdays
Course Format: On-campus course
Duration: 2 days
Date(s): May 6—May 20
Time: 10:00 am—4:00 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 29
Unit: 1
Tuition: $280
Instructor(s): Marisa Handler
Limit: 21
Status: Open
On-campus course
10:00 am—4:00 pm
May 6—May 20
2 days
Drop By
Apr 29
1 Unit
Marisa Handler
Toni Morrison wrote that the crucial distinction is not between fact and fiction, but rather between fact and truth. Writing fiction is a wonderful opportunity to bring forth the truths we may not know we hold—and character, without a doubt, is the midwife. In this course, we will practice the craft of writing strong characters. We will draw on our own experience, intuition, and research, with the aim of exploring the construction of characters both compelling and convincing. We will examine what makes certain characters we read so memorable. And we will discuss the fine boundary between “discovering” and purposefully crafting our characters. Classwork will include free writing and exercises in which we explore character development through description, dialogue, and scene. Each student will share a short character-focused piece in small workshop groups. Class readings will include selections from Flannery O’Connor, Gabriel García Márquez, Franz Kafka, George Saunders, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Donald Barthelme, and Elena Ferrante. This workshop is open also to writers of narrative nonfiction (in which case the writer is generally the central character of the work). You will emerge from this workshop with a greater mastery of the construction and development of character in your writing.

Marisa Handler, Author; Writing Instructor, Mills College

Marisa Handler is the author of the memoir Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist, which received a Nautilus Gold Award. Her essays, fiction, journalism, and poetry have appeared in The Sun, Orion, Salon, Witness, Kosmos, 580 Split, and other publications. Handler received an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and numerous fellowships in creative writing, including a Fulbright and an Elizabeth George Foundation grant. She is at work on a novel.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Charles Neider, Great Short Stories of the Masters (ISBN 978-0815412533)
(Recommended) David Corbett, The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV (ISBN 978-0143121572)
(Recommended) Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (ISBN 978-0385480017)