Desire and Vulnerability: Building Compelling Characters - Remote!

Saturday, April 10th, from 10:30am-1:30pm (EST)
Remote (Live Zoom Meetings)
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Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
This class is full

A piece of fiction writing is only as strong as its characters. Works filled with people we can relate to, despise, envision, or believe in simply hit us harder and resonate for longer. Characters must be multi-dimensional, and our connection to them is often related to a combination of two things: desire and vulnerability. Characters have to want something, and they have to let us see their fears. But, at a technical level, how do we build honest, interesting, and emotionally compelling characters on the page as writers? This generative course will use a combination of close explorations of already written strong characters and writing exercises to build better characters through a focus on desire and vulnerability. We’ll read excerpts of scenes that draw fascinating characters quickly and unpack how and why they work. Then we’ll explore several tactics for characterization: dialogue (how what our characters say and don’t say reveals who they are), point of view (how what our characters see and miss, inadvertently or by choice, tells us who they are), narrative action (how what our characters do, or fail to do, reveals them), the tension of interiority (how what our characters think, versus what they reveal to others, reveals about them), obsession (how a character’s obsessions can be endlessly telling), and objects (how what a character chooses to carry, or keep carrying, can say worlds about them).

This class will be hosted using live Zoom meetings! You will be able to participate in class via Zoom videoconference from wherever you’re most comfortable. All you’ll need is a laptop or a phone! About 15 minutes before your class is scheduled to begin, you'll receive an email from your instructor with a link to join the class meeting via Zoom–no need to download anything or sign up for Zoom in advance! If you have questions about remote learning, please feel free to reach out to [email protected] for more information.

For a glimpse at how remote learning works, look no further than the deep Zoom discussion of writing and literature below:

Scholarship Information

Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.

For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.

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Gregory Brown
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Previous Students Say

  • "Lots of Practical Tips"
  • "Very Well-Organized"
  • "Inundated with Great Info"


  • In-Class Writing
  • Instructor Feedback
  • Workshop
  • Lecture
  • In-Class Reading
  • Class Discussion


  • The Novel
  • Short Fiction

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