Developing characters that compel, fascinate, motivate, and infuriate is the most important work any writer can do. Every character deserves the full attention and compassion of its author, whether that character is an odious narcissist or endlessly kind. There is no character too difficult to write, no state of being too challenging to inhabit, and in this workshop we will do the difficult work of putting ourselves in unfamiliar shoes and walking around until we've found a story. We will learn about using our political and social imagination to write across difference, and we will learn about the distinction between empathetic representation and cultural exploitation. Each student will workshop twice, and will be required to complete additional readings and craft exercises designed to build better understanding of character development. This course is for students who have taken at least one fiction writing workshop before.
- intensive peer and instructor critiques on two fiction submissions
- deeper understanding of the distinction between empathetic representation and cultural exploitation
- one private conference with the instructor (via phone call or Skype) to discuss your writing style, goals, and areas for improvement
- the full benefits of the Catapult alumni network; access to a nurturing community of writers and readers and our monthly roundup of publication, residency, and award deadlines, plus a 10% discount on all future classes
- an arsenal of storytelling tools to help you develop fully realized characters
- practical advice about taking the next step as a professional writer - from applying to MFAS to preparing work for submission to agents and publishers
- greater familiarity with contemporary literature
- more confidence as a writer, on and off the page
Week 1: Intro, discussion: what makes a good/compelling/memorable character?
Week 2: Shifting point of view, developing empathy, workshop #1
Week 3: Backstory, how character psychology influences plot, workshop #2
Week 4: Writing across difference, researching character backgrounds, workshop #3
Week 5: How backgrounds influence character, writing from personal experience vs. writing from research, workshop #4
Week 6: Voice and character, how privilege relates to who we can and can't write, workshop #5
Rebekah Frumkin's fiction, nonfiction, and journalism have appeared in Granta, McSweeney's, Catapult, the Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Pacific Standard, among other places. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an MSJ in journalism from the Medill School at Northwestern University. Her debut novel, The Comedown, will be published by Henry Holt in January 2018.
"Rebekah Frumkin is one of my all-time favorite writers to read and to publish. Her voice is incredibly charismatic, surprising, and emotional. She will always hold your attention, and with an almost magical-seeming effortlessness, no matter what she writes about. I’d like her to teach me how to do that."
"Rebekah Frumkin's work is not only psychologically astute and beautifully crafted, but in her first novel THE COMEDOWN she inhabits so many different voices with such generosity and authority that, even from the first pages, I knew I was in the hands of a brilliant, undeniable talent. But, perhaps more importantly, it was clear right away that she was a writer interested in telling stories that feel big and broad ranging, stories that challenge and affect us all."
"This class inspired and informed who I would later become. I found a love for writing within myself because of this fiction class. The class eventually lead me to try to seek out more of your writing. I was so struck by the clarity and craft. It's something I still aspire to anytime I write something. I had a conversation with someone recently and told them how much this class meant to me and they told me if I truly felt that way I should express my gratitude. I guess ultimately, I just want to say thank you for being awesome and thank you for being an inspiration."
"Rebekah was a dynamic and deeply thoughtful writing teacher. Her comments were always thorough and insightful, as though she understood the written word from within the text. I was an older student when I took her class, and was always humbled by the depth of wisdom she exhibited. Indeed, I never felt anything but complete trust for her judgement when it came to my writing. She didn’t push her perspective or taste onto us, simply gave us the space--and encouragement—we needed to grow."
"Rebekah Frumkin is a writer of deeply impressive imagination and brilliant execution. I’ve read few writers who take such an ambitious and convincing bite of the world.”