Crafting Charismatic Characters
Alix Ohlin’s workshop will help you create rich, compelling characters who will grab readers’ attention and involve them deeply in your story. In this four-week class, you will learn techniques to develop dynamic characters whose complexity will catalyze the narrative and intensify the emotion in your work.
Great characters aren’t perfect; sometimes they aren’t even nice. What they are is unique and human—indelibly so. A strong character is the vehicle through which fiction compels the reader and makes plot events matter. As Henry James wrote, “We care what happens to people only in proportion as we know what people are.” In this workshop class, we will focus on the varied tools you can use to craft distinct and charismatic characters on the page. We’ll begin by looking at a few examples of great characters in fiction and asking, “How did the writer bring this character to life? How does character intersect with voice, setting, and plot? What tools are being used? What can we borrow for our own work?” You’ll be asked to write a creative response to at least one of these examples. I’ll also give you a short exercise or two designed to help you focus on the creation and development of a new character. Then we’ll move to on sharing, discussing, and improving your own work. You will receive personal feedback from me on your writing, and you should also be prepared to discuss the work of (and receive feedback from) others in the class.
ALIX OHLIN's novel Inside (Knopf) and her story collection Signs and Wonders (Vintage) were both published in 2012. A finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Prize, she is also the author of The Missing Person, a novel, and Babylon and Other Stories. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best New American Voices, and on public radio’s Selected Shorts. Born and raised in Montreal, she currently lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Lafayette College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.