TUTOR: Scott Onak’s stories have been published in Ninth Letter, Midwest Gothic, SmokeLong Quarterly, Willow Springs, and Mid-American Review. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has received an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. He holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Idaho and has received writing residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Vermont Studio Center.
Start Date: 6th May 2020
DURATION: 4 weeks
We often think of our characters — fictional or real — as generated from the inside out. Their personalities and desires exist because we create them that way. Or we probe their inner qualities first, believing it’s the best way to discover who they are.
But in this 4-week online course, we’ll explore our characters from the outside in, identifying the larger spheres — body, country, the past, religion — that surround and influence them.
What forces put pressure on them or impact their decisions? From which do they struggle to break free?
As writers, looking at these spheres can bring us a deeper understanding of action and motivation, whether we’re working with the characters in our fiction or the real people (or ourselves) we wish to capture. Looking outward can help us understand what’s within.
We’ll start small and expand: four spheres, each one larger than the next, over four themed weeks.
Week One: Body
The body is much more than height and hair color, or obligatory detail for a writer. Instead, we’ll explore how physical traits, quirks, and body image determine our characters’ actions and desires.
Week Two: Land
The countries and communities we come from are the next sphere. What places do we call “home”, whether we never want to leave them or vow never to return?
Week Three: The Past
We’ll move beyond what happened yesterday and ask what larger, social histories our characters have inherited. How much of their present is dictated by a past they haven’t personally experienced?
Week Four: Higher Powers
The final sphere is faith, spirituality, or simply the unknown. We’ll explore the friction that can result when intangible realms encounter our characters’ tangible realities.
Each week will feature a published reading by authors including Carmen Machado, Misham Hatar, Blair Hurley, and Simone Schwarz-Bart. Students will also complete a weekly assignment to share and receive feedback on from the instructor.
The assignments will invite students to generate sketches and scenes for new characters, or develop existing ones more deeply. The lessons are applicable to both fiction and nonfiction, and writers of all levels are welcome.
Please note that we do not require you to fill out a registration form. Instead, please click on the ‘Check Out Securely’ button. During the payment process you can input your name and email address which we will use to register you on the course. If you’d prefer to use another email address for the course correspondence or if you’re paying on behalf of another student, when you have processed the payment, please send the relevant email address and name for the course correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you have processed the payment, we will email you within 24 hours to confirm receipt.
Our next Spheres of Influence course starts on 06/05/2020
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