Winter 2021 Advanced Writing: Character and Scene

Fiction starts with conflict generated by a profound disturbance to an ordinary world. The coronavirus pandemic we’re living through has provided disturbance aplenty. That disturbance in real life can feel unbearably weighty, a sometimes cruel combination of chaos and fate. Our job as artists, and writers are artists, is to give that chaos form by telling stories that replace fate with characters capable of making choices. The Winter 2021 advanced writing character class isn’t about the coronavirus pandemic per se. But it is about how to create believable characters capable of making authentic choices in a disturbed world.

Our main text in this class.

The winter class will focus on character. We will examine how characters present in scene and then evolve with purpose in the longer story arc. We will compare the amount of exterior action in scene required of characters in popular genres to the degree of interiority expected of characters in literary genres. We will explore subtext, the “thing beneath the thing,” (Corbett). We will “peel away the mask” that characters wear and look at their repressed desires, needs, wants, fears, and hidden secrets and wounds and the dark side of the maladaptive behavior they exhibit to cope. We will compare the archetypal characters in a hero’s journey to the heroine’s journey more commonly used in many pop culture novels. Finally, we will talk about how characters achieve “reversals” and the tolerance for ambiguity in literary genres versus the demand for closure in pop fiction genres.

Offers characters alternatives to the hero’s journey.

.By the end of winter class, everyone working on a novel or book-length creative nonfiction manuscript will have had a chance to workshop up to 40 pages. Stories and creative nonfiction essays and memoirs are also acceptable. We will hold one major workshop session in the final two weeks of the winter quarter. Those who want more feedback are encouraged to sign up for workshopping in the earlier weeks as well.

A character-based novel.

One of the best resources available.

Required winter texts: 1) The Art of Character by David Corbett, ISBN: 9780143121572; 2) Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham, ISBN: 9780898799064; 3) Story by Robert McKee, ISBN: 9780060391683; 4) The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture, by Gail Carriger, ISBN: 1944751343 (paperback, first edition, Oct. 2020); 5) Dogeaters, a novel by Jessica Hagedorn, the 1990 paperback edition, ISBN: 9780140149043; and 6) Best American Short Stories 2019, Mariner Books, ISBN: 9781328484246.

Recommended winter text: Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ballentine Books, ISBN: 9780345396815.

Great tales with female archetypes.

Class meets: 10 Thursdays, 6:30-9:00 p.m., Jan. 7, 2021 through Mar. 11, 2021.

Where?: Zoom at this link:

Cost: $490


To reserve a spot in the Winter Advanced Writing course, please mail a deposit of $50 to Scott Driscoll, 7716 Dayton Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103.  The deposit will be deducted from the course fee.  Early sign-up is encouraged.  Please send me an email at to confirm that you are planning to sign up.


Thanks.  Hope to see you this winter.  Scott

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