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Care and Feeding of Compelling Characters

May 12 @ 9:30 am - 1:30 pm

Instructor: Clifford Garstang
$60 Members | $65 Nonmembers
Saturday, 5/12/18 | 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM

One of the essential hallmarks of vivid fiction is the presence of compelling characters. Readers may love them or hate them, but if they don’t care what happens to the characters, they are unlikely to keep reading about them. In this half-day seminar, we’ll look at techniques for drawing round (as opposed to flat) characters who will attract and keep the interest of readers. We’ll consider where our characters come from, what they look like, who they are, and, perhaps most importantly, how they will change over the course of the story in which they appear.

It is often said that a story’s protagonist must be likable. But is that really true? Sometimes readers find an unlikable character just as compelling as a likable one. Nobody likes Humbert Humbert or Emma Bovary, but their stories still draw readers in. The key for the writer, it turns out, is to know everything there is to know about the character, from diet and exercise to religious beliefs, from reading habits to sexual proclivities. Students will bring to the seminar a character they are writing about or want to write about and we will explore ways to bring that character to life on the page.

About the Instructor: Clifford Garstang is the author of two collections of short stories, In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know, which won the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction. His novel The Shaman of Turtle Valley will be published by Braddock Avenue Books in March 2019. He is also the editor of the anthology series, Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, Volume III of which will be published in October 2018, and the co-founder and former editor of Prime Number Magazine. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Northwestern University, an MA in English and a JD from Indiana University, an MPA from Harvard University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte.

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May 12
9:30 am - 1:30 pm
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Clifford Garstang


508 Dale Avenue
Charlottesville, 22902 United States
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