University of Iowa

Pygmalion or Bringing Your Characters to Life

Weeklong June 16 to June 21 2019

In one moment your character is a blurry outline on the page and in the next she comes vividly alive. How and why does this happen? And how can you learn as a writer to make it happen again and again?


The goal of this workshop is to provide you with strategies to bring your characters alive. The benefits of vibrant characterization are multifold. A character who is alive can make a whole work breathe. One living character can breathe life into another. Moreover, a character who is vivid in your mind may begin to make his or her own demands, helping you steer your novel or story where it needs to go.


This weeklong workshop is designed for fiction writers with varying levels of experience. While we will be looking at models of stellar characterization, the focus will be your own work. You will be asked to provide 5-10 pages that feature one of your characters, ideally in the form of 1) a character description and 2) a scene with your character. We’ll workshop your submissions early in the week and, during the remaining 2-3 days, you’ll generate fresh pages about your character, or characters, through in-class exercises and overnight assignments.


You’ll go away from the workshop with a deeper understanding of how to revive a listless character or create a radiant new one from scratch.


In this workshop we will provide feedback on writing you bring from home or produce in our week.

Short Story