The University of Iowa

Creating Compelling Characters in Fiction

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020

How does one create a character? And more to the point, how does one create a character who is so interesting that a reader will want to spend an entire story or novel with them? In this course, which welcomes fiction writers of all levels, we will examine how to create complex and compelling characters. We will spend part of our time discussing how to build characters in the first place—how, from the get-go, to make them as credible and distinct as we can. But most of our time will be spent doing exercises that help you explore the many facets of your characters, which is to say, what makes them absorbing and fully human. You will get to know your characters within a range of physical settings, time periods, and dramatic situations. You will gain insight into what motivates your characters and in what ways your characters are capable of change. Along the way, you will discover many of your strengths as an imaginative writer as well as some of your blind spots. By the end of the weekend, you will better appreciate the dimensions (and mysteries) of your characters as well as have a fresh understanding of how those characters can be woven into stories.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide feedback on writing you produce in our weekend.

Short Story