For a lot of readers, the gateway into a story is strong characters. They want someone to cheer on or they want someone to hate. We'll discuss the craft of writing a strong character from focusing on small details to how other elements (like plot, description, point of view, and tone) also work to make a character feel alive on the page. We'll read short stories and novel excerpts by authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Kelly Link, Chekov, Jamel Brinkley, and Sally Rooney.
While this workshop is for writers at any level, students should come into the class with stories already written and ready to be workshopped. Students will have the opportunity to workshop at least twice, and can bring in short stories or excerpts from a longer work. This class will include reading assignments every week, so students should be prepared both for reading and craft discussions as well as class time dedicated to workshopping their writing and the work of their classmates.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the Zoom desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Learn how to write engaging characters that feel alive on the page
- Consider how other craft elements are involved in creating believable characters
- Consider the relationship between character and story in your own writing
- Think deeply about the relationship between point of view and character
- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students will write two short stories or two novel excerpts (20 double-spaced pages or less) to be workshopped in class. Students will read up to 85 pages a week between assigned published work and their colleagues' stories.
Week One: Introductions, Ice Breaking, Workshop Schedule, Craft, Read Together
Week Two: Discussion of the idea of Thinking, Feeling, Reacting, Acting, Speaking on the page. Workshop Stories 1, 2, and 3 will be turned in.
Week Three: Students will have read first 3 workshop stories. Discussion of flash fiction. Discuss form, what is said and unsaid in prose. Workshop. Workshop Stories 4, 5, 6 will be turned in.
Week Four: Workshop stories 4-6. Stories 7, 8, 9 turned in. Discussion of the extraordinary and characters, symbiotic relationship between the two.
Week Five: Turn in workshop stories 10, 11, 12. Discuss character rules that can be broken and why. Workshops stories 7-9.
Week Six: Workshop stories 10-12. Discuss our thoughts overall on characters after an intensive six weeks. Final in-class writing exercise.
Megan Giddings' debut novel, Lakewood, was published by Amistad in March 2020. She is the fiction editor at The Offing and a features editor at The Rumpus. Her short stories have been recently published in Catapult, The Iowa Review, The Southeast Review, and Story. More about her can be found at www.megangiddings.com
"I was allowed to learn how to write in a nonjudgmental environment– one that valued creativity and openness. It was one that allowed me to explore my abilities as a writer and develop them. I was always motivated and excited. It sparked life in me that I had long forgotten in college. I was like a child once more– eager and excited, creative in endless ways. This creativity was fostered and natured– allowed to roam freely with great guidance."
"Megan is inspiring – she makes me want to be a better writer. She challenges your thinking without being confrontational."
“An impressive debut. Megan Giddings has produced a novel of great emotional intensity. Her brilliant storytelling skills are on full display in this story which unfolds with subtle prose that deftly explores powerful themes of family, loss, responsibility, and friendship. Lena Johnson is a masterfully rendered protagonist, reminiscent of the characters of Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones and Jesmyn Ward, while appearing utterly new and fresh.”
"Like Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID'S TALE or Ira Levin’s THE STEPFORD WIVES, LAKEWOOD compels even as it unsettles. Megan Giddings writes with a scalpel and I’d follow her characters anywhere."
“Megan Giddings’ LAKEWOOD is a gripping thriller of ideas in the tradition of Kazuo Ishiguro’s NEVER LET ME GO, depicting a terrifying world of public complicity and government-sponsored malpractice. Giddings asks: What happens when our want to be useful is weaponized against us, when the only way we see to help others is to invite harm upon ourselves? This is the rare debut that feels utterly of the now, unearthing our shared past even as it charges the reader to imagine and enact a better future, fast as they can.”
“Both profoundly poetic and utterly compelling, Lakewood presents an intimate portrait of the physical and psychological trauma caused by the use of black people as test subjects for medical experiments in the United States and powerfully connects it to the broader legacy of environmental racism.”