New Class!

Conjuring Character: Bringing Real People to Life in Nonfiction Writing

Friday, May 3rd, from 10:00am-5:00pm
Remote (Live Zoom Meetings)
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Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
12 seats max

To turn real people into characters, the nonfiction writer must be as psychologically astute as the novelist—and also far warier of the line between perception and projection. As the journalist Jon Franklin has written, “It requires quite a leap from standard journalistic reporting for a writer to say: I can understand another human being, my character, well enough to put the reader inside that person's mind."

This class is for writers of literary nonfiction—memoirists, essayists, narrative journalists, profile writers, and so on—at any level of craft and expertise. This one-day session will include in-class writing exercises as well as reading and discussion of exemplary works of literary journalism by authors such as Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Jennifer Percy, and John McPhee. Our topics will include: how to find the right characters to animate the story you want to tell, how to conduct what Franklin calls "the psychological interview"—essentially, the reporting that enables a writer to convey a subject's inner world—and how to bring characters to life through craft skills such as detail and scene. Since we will devote substantial time to in-class writing exercises, students who have a project in mind are encouraged to bring reporting, notes, or draft material to work with (though this material will not be formally workshopped). Participants should expect to walk away with increased mastery of skills such as dialogue and description, as well as extensive tools for conducting the research and interviews that fill in real-life characters with vivid, true details.


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Nora Caplan-Bricker
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Previous Students Say

  • "Supportive Environment"
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  • Class Discussion
  • Instructor Feedback
  • In-Class Writing
  • Lecture
  • Craft Lessons


  • Book-Length Memoir
  • Personal Essay
  • Nonfiction

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