courses

Craft of Character | Notes

These are my notes from the Craft of Character online writing class.


WEEK 1

🌐 Conception

The heart of character is who matters to you. Not who you think will be interesting to other people, but what you care about. The heart of an interesting character is somebody that you’ve developed in your imagination, and then we work with the language to put that on the page.

Amy Bloom

Imagine a Character

  1. see them—as a physical being, the body of the character matters
    1. Create an entire list for how the person looks
  2. hear them—how do they sound, how do they express themselves? 
    1. Listen to them
  3. smell them—use all your senses
  4. Invest in the character—what draws you in?

What is at the core of characters is not that they are imaginary, what is at the core of them is your real feelings about them and your wish to make them come alive.

🌐 The Conflict Within

Every writer should aspire to create characters that have their own desires—that want things.

Memorable Dialogue should include two things:

  1. Deepen our understanding of the character
  2. Advance the plot

Dialog is what characters do to one another. It’s active, it moves the story forward.

What makes a memorable character? Desire—your character wants something.

Our flaws are often driven by what it is that we desire most.

Amy Bloom

Read more about Character Desire.

🌐 Desire and Goals

It’s important to give yourself permission to approach your characters and your story in as wide of range as possible. 

The most important part of dialogue is what it reveals about the speaker.

The requirement of the writer is to show, and show, and show some more. And then you get to tell a little bit.

🌐 Hearing, Selecting, and Seeing

What a writer does, in a certain way, is look at the world, leave out everything that isn’t part of the story at hand, and then examine very, very carefully that which remains.

Observation is how we get to know what people look like, what they sound like, how they feel to us, how they move in the world. How they interact with the other characters.

Empathy is the moment where we enter into the character. We don’t just see them and observe them, we see the world as they see it. We experience it as they see it.

Selecting or chipping away of that which does not serve our story. If it doesn’t help move the story along or illuminate the character, or make them visible to the reader, file away for later.

WEEK 2

🌐 Voice

What are the character’s desires? 

In the grocery store, in the community square, and also in private.

Random character facts—> What’s the worst thing your character has ever done?

🌐 Making Them Matter to the Reader

If you’re stuck in a story, just have another character walk into the room. Create conflict. [Something uncomfortable, difficult, or incredibly intimate.]

Make sure dialogue hits the following three points:

1) Illuminates character, it couldn’t be anybody else speaking. 

2) It advances the story, so there is a point to us reading that section of dialogue. There’s a reason for us to read it and it’s not just to get information. 

3) And when possible, the dialogue is interesting in and of itself. It’s a sentence we enjoy hearing or enjoy reading.

And my policy is always, if you haven’t managed to do two of the three, you have to start again.

Amy Bloom

🌐 The Story Reveals Who We Are

Dialog is the accelerator of action.

More dialog…

Show, show, show, and then a little telling.

WEEK 3

🌐 Inflection

The nature of your character through how they speak.

Who is telling the story? 

It’s important to craft your characters in such a way that they have distinct voices that the reader can identify, to help identify the story. Whose story is it?

🌐 Picking Your Point of View

The most interesting characters are not typical men, or typical women. Because, what makes us interesting as people is also what makes interesting characters, which is that people are not typical. And the gap between how they appear and how they really are is such an interesting thing about creating a character. You never want to write a typical man or a typical woman because that doesn’t exist.

You don’t have to like your character but you have to love them and you have to be able to see the world as they see it.

Amy Bloom

🌐 Conversation’s Greatest Hits

Verisimilitude –the appearance of being true or real.

The art of dialogue is making it interesting. Illuminate your character, help us know them better through how they are talking. You want to craft interesting sentences. Whoever you’re writing about, we want to learn things about them through dialogue.

🌐 Idiosyncrasies

Dialogue can carry the scene by itself, and wherever it can, you should let it.

Insert action that goes along with the dialogue where you can.

You always want to use context:

  • Where are we?
  • When is it?
  • Night and day.

The key to everything is understanding your character’s attitudes, their fears, their misgivings, their hesitations, and their hopes.

WEEK 4

Set your characters free and give them somewhere to go.

🌐 What Do We Do & How Do We Do It

We see them, we hear them, and by those two things coming together, we get to know them.

In the end, events do not make us who we are once we are adults.

But events, even the most everyday ones, reveal who we are, and this is the section where we talk about, how do you reveal your characters most memorably to your reader?

🌐 The Relationship between the Character and the Wide World

You get to use all of your senses in writing.

It’s not just about looking.

It’s looking and hearing and reading resources, and listening, and smelling, and touching.

And so you accomplish a sort of melding of something that may have originated in you and then finds its expression in another person.

A person that you’ve made up.

And you create the character through inhabiting, and as you say, through self-understanding. Not compassion or love for them.

🌐 Voice of Narrator

Point of view (POV) who is telling the story? And what is their relationship to the story?

  1. Omniscient narrator or a narrator who know everything. The narrator that is the eye of God.
  2. The narrator is one of the characters in the story.

🌐 Voice of Narrative

How ever you want to frame the story is up to you. 

  • You can change points of view.
  • You can begin in the first person and you can move to the third person.

You want your viewpoint character to be somebody who can tell the story. So, one of the things you want to think to yourself about is, not only who can tell the story, and who should tell the story, but then finally: what will the story become in the voice and eyes of that character?


1 thought on “Craft of Character | Notes”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s