Writing Character-Driven Fiction

While plot may be the engine of prose, character is its beating heart. We remember the terse Olive Kitteridge, the shy Arthur Less, Katie Kitamura’s intensely observant and resolute protagonists, long after putting down the books featuring these memorable characters. Character-driven fiction puts people first, asking us to get to know them in all of their idiosyncrasies, and lets their behavior and attitudes shape the plot. In this writing-intensive, generative course, we will explore the mechanisms that writers use to create strong, memorable characters and to build stories around them. Each week, we will look at a new aspect of character-driven fiction—from observation exercises, research practice, and initial prompts to building a scene and finding the story. We will read work by past and contemporary masters of character-driven fiction, including Charles D’Ambrosio, Edith Pearlman, Elizabeth McCracken, Evan S. Connell, and Andrew Sean Greer. In the first half of the course, we will produce a portfolio of several characters to serve as a springboard for future writing. In the second half, students will submit a short story or a novel fragment (up to 3,000 words) that explores one of the characters in depth, for instructor and small-group feedback. The course is designed for writers of all levels working on short or long form.

Evgeniya Dame
Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

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Online, instructor-led
Jan 16 - Mar 22, 2024
Stanford Continuing Studies