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Creating Character
in Biography, Memoir & Fiction

Facilitator:  Sarah Zale

Workshop Syllabus

As writers, we want our characters to emerge three-dimensional from the page. We want them to live with our readers as they read and to deliciously haunt long after the final page is turned. One way to work on developing authentic characters is to begin with the most three-dimensional character we know: our self. Starting with the genre of memoir, then proceeding to biography and fiction, you will work on using words to bring flesh and bone to your characters.  

 Week One:  Giving Birth to a Character

We will begin the process of what a writer must do to create a character the reader truly cares about. Exercises in observation, role-play, and imagination will start here and continue throughout all four weeks.

 Week Two:  Becoming The Main Character in Memoir

Here’s where we take a look at our Self, the character we know best. Memoir is often the first genre choice of new writers because they figure that right from the get-go they’re ahead: Character development? Check. Cross that off the list. We’ll take a closer look.

 Week Three:  Developing The Main Character in Biography

How do we go about writing about someone we know really well? Or how do we go about learning enough about a person to write their “true” story?

 Week Four:  Creating Character in Fiction

Is the easiest way to just make a character up from scratch? Why do so many writers fail to create believable characters?

Objective:  By the end of the course, each student will have the questions and some of the answers and many tools to continue learning about character, as writers do, through their own practice of writing.  

 Prerequisites:  none

About the facilitator:  Sarah Zale has a Masters in English Literature and a Masters in Rhetoric and the Teaching of Writing from the University of Colorado. She is a freelance writer who has published her poetry, essays, and short stories. Recently she completed a collection of biographies of women sailing the world.

Workshop Begins: August 11, 2003
Duration: 4 weeks  
Tuition: $80


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Books recommended on this page are not required reading for participation in the course. Required materials, if any, are listed in the course syllabus.

Writer's Digest Guide to Creating Character Traits

Stereotypes exist for a reason; usually, because there's an element of truth to them. With The Writer's Guide to Character Traits,
psychologist-professor Linda Edelstein has created a kind of Psych 101 for Writers. Her goal is a "friendly reference" for writers who want "to create believable characters and need accurate information about personality and behavior."

Creating Characters: 
How to Build Story People

You won't just read this book--you'll use it. Creating characters provides an endless source of inspiration in helping the writer develop, motivate, and describe fictional people readers will love, hate, or relate to.