Online course: Creative Writing: The Craft of Character (part of the Long term online programme Creative Writing)

Dates: any time

Duration: 6 hours

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 out of 1596 ratings (see top rating courses here)

Participating countries: anyone can apply

Apply: Here

Organizer: Wesleyan University at Coursera


  • FREE
  • $49 with sharable certificate

Creative Writing: The Craft of Character

In this course aspiring writers will be introduced to perhaps the most elemental and often the most challenging element of story: plot. We will learn what keeps it moving, how it manipulates our feelings, expectations, and desires. We will examine the choices storytellers make to snag our imaginations, drag them into a fictional world, and keep them there. We will learn how to outline and structure a plot, discuss narrative arc, pacing and reversals and reveal the inevitable surprise: connecting the beginning, middle and end.




WEEK 1 Discovering Characters from Your Life and Elsewhere

What happens in the writer’s mind before any words are written on the paper? Characters then reveal themselves through conflict and drama. Without conflict there is no purpose to the story. We then discuss desire. Human beings want things, even when we don’t really know what it is we wish for. Finally, we conclude the module like Michelangelo, chipping away everything that is not the masterpiece statue of David. Learn to find what is germane to the story you are telling by looking closely at the character.

The Conflict Within (Shop Talk with Brando Skyhorse)
Desire and Goals
Hearing, Selecting, and Seeing
Feedback Expectations for the Specialization
A Note on Assignments
Promo Codes

WEEK 2: 2 hours to complete

Creating Characters on the Page

Here, we delve deeper into the characters. What is their physical description, and how can we describe them through action? How do they speak? What makes me want to read about them? When your characters need help or understanding, or even rescuing, this draws the reader in, far more than likability. Finally, we discuss how the plot reveals the inner life of characters through what they do as well as say.

Visiting Writer: Richard Blanco
Making Them Matter to the Reader (with Visiting Writer Dani Shapiro)
The Story Reveals Who We Are (Shop Talk with Salvatore Scibona)

WEEK 3 Dialogue and Monologue

How do we lead a reader to a world that feels real? Narrators have an attitude, towards subjects and audience, about the world and its events. We discuss in this module considerations involved in planning for these realities, including the differences between first and third person and the construction of dialogue with verisimilitude – the feel of real life – while stripping away the tedium. We ask what idiosyncrasies your characters possess and how to control them to advance the narrative.

Picking Your Point of View (Shop Talk with Amity Gaige)
Conversation’s Greatest Hits

WEEK 4 Set Your Characters Free.. and Give Them Somewhere to Go

In this module, we reflect on how our readers learn about our characters – and how we as writers do, as well. We ask questions about who is telling the story, why, and with what goal. We conclude the course with a conversation about the narrator and, distinctly, the narrative, to see how they shape the reader’s perception of character and story.

What We Do and How We Do It
The Relationship Between the Character and the Wide World (with Visiting Writer Valerie Martin)
Voice of Narrator
Voice of Narrative