This course is for anyone who wants to hone their ability to write compelling dialogue, develop their voice as a writer, and learn to create well-rounded, dimensional characters who come to life on the page. Over our six weeks together, we will study masters of voice (Junot Diaz, David Foster Wallace, Jamaica Kincaid, and others) and learn how to imbue characters with individuality and depth through voice. This will be helpful for novelists and short story writers who want to learn how to add greater nuance, believability, and richness to their characters. We will investigate how stylistic and craft choices like sentence structure and frame of reference create individual voices. We'll tackle such questions as: What motivates individual characters? How do characters' pasts influence their actions? How can we depict character histories on the page? How can we create distinct voices for different characters?
Each student will write and workshop two short stories within the duration of class, and complete exercises designed to bolster their comfort with characterization and voice in short fiction. This course will give students a toolkit for developing unique, memorable characters and captivating dialogue, and students will finish the course with two polished stories ready for submission.
- Concrete strategies for crafting believable, memorable, characters in short fiction
- Greater confidence when approaching character and voice in future works
- Individualized feedback from instructor and peers on two fiction submissions
- Practical craft advice for crafting dynamic dialogue that advances the story and adds tension, and advice for how to reveal backstory gracefully through compelling dialogue
- Techniques for making each character’s voice sound different and unique
Amy Feltman earned her B.A. at Vassar College and her M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University. In 2016, she taught at Columbia University in the undergraduate department. She has been published in The Millions, The Believer logger, Gigantic, The Toast, Lilith Magazine, Two Serious Ladies, The Rumpus, Cosmonauts Avenue, Slice Magazine, and elsewhere. In 2016, her short story “Speculoos” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first novel, Willa & Hesper, will be published by Grand Central Publishing in early 2019. She works at Poets & Writers Magazine and currently lives in Astoria, NY.
“Amy Feltman nails, with anguish and hilarity, the dislocation of growing up in an incomprehensible world... [She] is a striking new talent.”
“Amy Feltman is among the very best readers I've ever had for my writing. She is talented and kind, decisive and insightful, and every time I show her anything I'm stuck on, she brings a perspective that I couldn't possibly have imagined on my own, that somehow seems to rearrange all the disparate pieces I've laid in front of her into perfect form. She is a gorgeous and life-affirming writer with a nuanced eye for uncommon beauty and a true, joyful passion for words. Amy approaches every piece of writing she encounters with a discerning intelligence and a tender heart. I can't fathom a more dedicated teacher, or a more compelling and compassionate reader.”
“Amy Feltman's writing is tender but never sentimental, sharp, and vivid. As a teacher and editor, Amy channels this same balance between generosity and acuity. She has a special attention to formal tightness and coherence, and she is able to discern where a story should be compressed and where it should be dilated. She can find where the heat is, even when it's not quite clear to the writer herself, and offer critical direction about how to go further.”
“Amy and I were in workshop together during our time at Columbia, and I have often sought her counsel on my work in the years since. I remain astonished by the thoughtfulness of her comments, and wish all writers had a reader as nimble and astute as she. Amy engages a work on its own terms. She celebrates all methods of fiction and storytelling, and I’ve found that this is because she reads—indeed, loves—all types of literature. She is as fluent in Faulkner as she is in Ali Smith. She can line-edit with the best of them, but she can also zoom out and think dynamically about a text’s macro-level strengths and weaknesses. Amy is a darling of a person—whip-smart of course, but also gentle, generous, and utterly committed to her craft. Any aspiring writer would be lucky to find herself in Amy Feltman’s workshop.”
“Amy Feltman was my first creative writing professor at Columbia, and is much of the reason I continue to write today. Having no formal experience with writing prior to her workshop, I learned so much from the precision of her edits and comments, and the enthusiasm with which she approached the class. Whenever I turned a piece in, Amy would point out what I couldn’t see: the trite, cliche, cutesy, but also the powerful, the importance of a single detail, and the passages that most captured my ‘voice.’ This balance between critical and compassionate feedback was essential to my development as a writer, and I still use her (and have kept her) comments as I edit today. What most sets Amy apart as a professor is her obvious care for every student in the workshop; never since have I had a professor so invested in the progress of her students. She frequently took time outside of class (during office hours, or on her own time) to meet with us individually and discuss our ideas for future work. Aside from helping with writing on the page, Amy is an incredible resource for book recommendations. I discovered much of my favorite essays/short pieces because Amy recommended them to me, and they hit the spot in satisfying my craving for reading material that would enhance my work. Anyone would be lucky to work alongside Amy, and I’m grateful for the experience.”