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Available Online

The Art of Character Creation

4 Weeks • with Carolyn Zaikowski

  • Started Nov 28
  • 250 US dollars
  • Online via Zoom

Class Description

COURSE DESCRIPTION Creating great fiction requires creating compelling, three-dimensional characters who break through clichés and stereotypes. In this class, we’ll explore questions like: What are the internal states and motivations of our characters? How does that connect to their external behaviors—how do they think, feel, and act in different situations and environments, from the mundane to the profound? What are their personal, social, and cultural histories, and what should we take into account when writing characters who come from different social or cultural groups than us? We will use a variety of in-class and at-home explorations, brainstorming exercises, small-group and large-group sharing, and guided discussions to get at these core issues. We’ll even bring our characters to life by introducing them to the group and interviewing them. Students may bring ideas from characters they're already working on; for students who don't have characters yet, prompts will be given to create some. Estimated at-home workload: 1-2 hours per week of reading and at-home exercises. WEEKLY COURSE OUTLINE WEEK ONE: We’ll ask the basic questions: What is character? Why do we need it? How do we do it? WEEK TWO: We’ll talk stereotypes, tropes, and writing the “Other”: Considerations for how, when, and whether to write characters outside of our identity groups. WEEK THREE: We’ll explore character and its fascinating relationship to other craft elements (point of view, voice, dialogue, setting, etc.) WEEK FOUR: We’ll present our characters and interview fellow classmates’ characters! INSTRUCTOR CAROLYN ZAIKOWSKI is the author of the hybrid novel In Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse (Civil Coping Mechanisms Press). Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared widely in The Washington Post, Denver Quarterly, The Rumpus, Alaska Quarterly, West Branch, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and is currently an English professor, writing consultant, and volunteer death doula. Find her online at

Upcoming Sessions

Cancellation Policy

If you withdraw from a workshop TEN DAYS OR MORE before the start of the class: You'll receive full credit toward another workshop OR a full refund (minus 10%, a transaction fee that is non-refundable and that we would otherwise be charged). If you withdraw from a workshop nine days before the start of the class up until 48 hours before: You'll receive a refund minus 20%. If you withdraw from a workshop less than 48 hours before the start of a class or after the class has begun: We cannot offer credit or any refund. If you are absent on the day of your workshop or miss it for any reason, we are unable to offer any kind of refund or credit. If we have to cancel a class you have paid for, you will receive a full refund, without the service charge deducted. For our full listing of policies, visit www.PioneerValleyWriters.Com, Policies page (under Home). To withdraw and receive a partial refund according to the above, please get in touch with Joy at

Contact Details

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