Learn to explore your characters beyond the constraints of the plot and engage your readers with an intimate understanding of them so they leap off the page!

There are no available registration dates at this time.

Say you’re working on a new character. She’s a journalist, covering Washington politics. You describe for us the suit that she likes to wear on Capitol Hill when she interviews congressmen. You show us her demeanor: she is fierce when she’s chasing down a story, but demure when her mother calls. But how good is she at bowling? Can she get a strike or does she still use the bumper lanes? Though it may not seem important to the story you’re telling to know whether your character can bowl a perfect game, the more we know about our characters, the more they leap off the page.

Drawing of a woman in a city street holding a red bowling ball and looking happy

Guided by Kate Russo, in this workshop, we will explore our characters’ habits, preferences and traits, beyond the constraints of plot and setting. Prior to the first day of class, participants will be asked to hand in a piece of writing, a scene, no more than 1,500 words, featuring the character they want to work on. Throughout the week, we’ll do several exercises to remove these characters from their specific scenes and place them in new and unexpected environments. Through morning critiques and afternoon prompts, we’ll challenge ourselves to learn as much as we can about our chosen characters. 

Prompts will include creating dating/social media profiles for our characters (yes, even if they were alive pre-internet!), writing playlists of their favorite songs, putting our characters in environments very different from those of their original scenes, and writing new scenes where our characters interact with other characters critiqued in the class. Come with an open mind. This workshop is not intended to produce polished stories or chapters. Instead, we’re doing the work of creating fleshed-out, whole characters that can exist beyond the worlds we create for them.

Images by Dave Bell.

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Instructor: Kate Russo

Kate Russo is a writer and artist who divides her time between Portland, ME and London, UK. She has an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art in London and exhibits in both countries. Her debut novel, Super Host, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in February of 2021, was an Editor’s Choice pick in The New York Times Book Review.