Online | Fiction | Workshop

8-Week Online Fiction Workshop: The Psychology of Character

How does one go about developing characters in fiction that are as complex, odd, and surprising as real people? How can character be the chief driving force of a narrative? How can you include a character’s backstory without writing pages and pages of flashback? How can theories of personality in psychology and narrative psychology help us to write better fiction?

If you find yourself struggling to write multidimensional characters, this class is a fit for you. Throughout this eight-week course, we will look at not only works of fiction that exemplify complex character development, but various psychology texts and theories that can be applied to writing fiction. In addition to these readings, you will workshop two short stories (novel excerpts are accepted) and act as an editor for your peers’ work. Focusing on developing character will both deepen and complicate your work and will help to solve problems in your fiction related to narrative shape and structure. By the end of this workshop, you will have a better understanding of how character functions in fiction.

This course is designed for fiction writers, but no prior workshop experience or formal education is required for this course.

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 desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility.

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- In-depth discussions on the relationship between character and plot/story

- Strategies for how to develop complex character in fiction

- An understanding of how character can be the driving force of conflict in a story

- General tips for writing about trauma in fiction in a way that feels not only believable for the reader, but also exciting and unexpected, rather than rote or cliche

- Tactics for writing character-revealing dialogue and character-revealing details

- A deeper consideration of the distinction between “plot” and “story”

- Intensive peer and instructor feedback on two fiction submissions

- One individual conference with the instructor to further discuss the writer’s work and writing goals (conference will be conducted on the phone or via Zoom)

- Access to short exercises designed to help you develop your characters

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Each week, students will be asked to give feedback on their peers’ workshop submissions. Workshop submissions should be no longer than 30 pages double spaced in Times New Roman, 12 pt font (though students will have the option to submit one longer submission rather than two shorter submissions if they’d like). Students will also be given optional reading and writing exercises that pertain to that week’s craft discussion. Deadlines will be enforced for both workshop submissions and workshop critiques.


Week 1: The Importance of Character Development

Week 2: Internal vs. External Action in Fiction and Round vs. Flat Characters, Workshop #1

Week 3: Writing Trauma in Fiction and What “Unlikable Characters” Really Means, Workshop #2

Week 4: Character-Revealing Details and Dialogue, Workshop #3

Week 5: Episodic vs. Diachronic Styles of Temporal Being in Fiction, Workshop #4

Week 6: The Big Five Personality Traits in Fiction, Workshop #5

Week 7: Contradictions of Character: How to Create Multifaceted Characters, Workshop #6

Week 8: The Relationship Between Character and External Action, Workshop #7

Michelle Lyn King

Michelle Lyn King was born and raised in south Florida and now lives in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Brooklyn College and is a graduate student of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, where she works in the Cognitive Psychology Lab and the Gender and Health Research Lab. Her areas of interest include gender, sexuality, and narrative psychology.

Michelle is the Editor-in-Chief of Joyland magazine. Her work has been published in Catapult magazine, Triangle House Review, Joyland, NY Tyrant, and The Rumpus, amongst other publications. 


"Michelle Lyn King's writing is incredibly sharp and memorable—every word and every detail has a purpose. Michelle is also a gifted editor, knowing exactly what to cut and where to expand. Her enthusiasm for writing is contagious."


"Michelle Lyn King is a writer, teacher, and editor par excellence. Just as dedicated to craft as she is the artistic impulse, she will quietly empower and interrogate a writer without leaving a trace of herself behind—only stronger, empathetic, and fresher work. Scrupulous and kind, Michelle can ask the questions that no one else will think of, an invaluable and rare trait for a teacher and editor."

Monika Woods owner of Triangle House Literary Agency

"Michelle is an outstanding writer, with a finely tuned ear for the speaking rhythms and the sensibilities of her characters. She is smart and well-informed and enthusiastic about writing—just the sort of person I’d want a talented, developing writer to be studying with."


“Michelle Lyn King has edited my short fiction, and the short fiction of many other writers, with unrivaled insight and care. Her website, Joyland, is among the very best literary magazines we have, Any writer would be lucky to work with and learn from her.”

David Burr Gerrard author of THE EPIPHANY MACHINE

"Michelle Lyn King is a generous and insightful editor: a true caretaker of writers and their words. Her understanding of a work’s essence is clear, and her advice spot-on. I would trust her with anything I wrote."

Courtney Balestier creator and host of WMFA

"Michelle is an incredibly observant writer and editor. I'm amazed by her ability to give sharp feedback on a line level and thoughtful advice on a story's broader arc. She's an expert on craft, but she also has the more intangible ability to understand what lies at the heart of even my messiest drafts, the emotional underpinnings of what's on the page. Since workshopping with her, she's become one of my most trusted readers."

Maddie Crum