gwwOver the years, I’ve taken multiple courses online from Gotham Writers at Most of their online courses are 6-10 weeks long and include weekly lessons to read and discuss with your classmates, exercises to complete on your own, homework with instructor feedback, and periodic peer reviews.

While valuable, after taking four of them (Creative Writing 101, Nonfiction 101, Humor Writing, and Memoir Writing), I found certain elements to be fairly repetitive. To be completely honest, entire lessons were exact copy/paste replicas from class to class. But in July, they were running a 3-week intensive session that seemed perfect for me – it focused on character development, exactly the area my long-term work in progress has struggled with recently.

The Character Development Intensive was really helpful and I’m glad I gave it a chance. I like that the syllabus is available beforehand so I could tell this would be relevant before I registered. Topics covered included:

  • Desire – Desire as the driving force in a character (and story). Finding a character’s desire-external and internal. Finding obstacles to desire.
  • Contrast – Making characters dimensional through a mix of admirable and flawed traits.
  • Showing and Telling – The difference between showing and telling. Methods for showing characters-action, speech, appearance, thought.
  • Change – Making characters capable of change. Evolution of character. How the perception of a character may change.
  • Building a Character – Where to find inspiration for characters. Putting the pieces of a character together.
  • Names – How to choose character names.

While I don’t know that I learned anything new, it was helpful to have such a focused session that really pushed in on this aspect of writing. The exercises were all purposeful and by the end of the three weeks, I was able to come up with a plan for the undefined, lifeless protagonist of my novel.

Unfortunately, I think that plan involves putting her away for awhile. I can’t work up much enthusiasm for her or her story at the moment. I think it may be time to let a new story take over. Then, when I return to Meredith and the girl in the lake, maybe she’ll be ready to tell me more about who she is instead of hiding behind all her secrets.