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

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Saturdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 2 days
Date(s): Sep 29—Oct 6
Time: 10:00 am—4:00 pm
Drop Deadline: Sep 22
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $365
Instructor(s): Marisa Handler
Limit: 21
10:00 am—4:00 pm
Sep 29—Oct 6
2 days
Drop By
Sep 22
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
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 also suited for writers of narrative nonfiction (in which case the writer is generally the central character of the work). Students will emerge from this workshop with a greater mastery of the construction and development of character in their 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, five80split, and other publications. Handler received an MFA from the 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) Anne LaMott, Bird by Bird (ISBN 978-0385480017)
(Recommended) David Corbett, The Art of Character (ISBN 978-0143121572)