My Four Weeks of Fiction class started last night with a diverse group of participants, each working on different projects in genres from fantasy to tales of immigrants. Thanks to Emrys, the organization that offers The Writing Room, the umbrella for lots of classes and workshops that help get writers started, keep them writing and find their best voices on the page.
Each week in this fiction workshop, we’ll play with language a little to get warmed up and then look at a craft element to help us develop our stories. Last night, we used one of the exercises from Ursula LeGuin’s book, Steering the Craft, to open up some language play with alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition and rhythm. We then jumped right in to character. The opening of Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist offered inspiration and an excellent example of a compelling physical description.
Dale Ray Phillips and M. L. Steadman helped us get our characters moving into work they know well. The protagonist in What Men Love For, from My People’s Waltz gave us a boy setting to a favorite chore.
The Light Between Oceans offered a glimpse into the work of a lighthouse keeper.
Each of these is an excellent example of how much the details of daily tasks can reveal about character.
For homework, we’re reading Andrea Barrett’s Theories of Rain, from her collection, Servants of the Map.
Next week, we’ll look at setting, and at the use of setting as character.