Staging Fiction from Inside and Outside Character

In his book From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction, Robert Olen Butler describes a technique for inhabiting character. He suggests that we imagine a camera inside character that choreographs setting from each character's peculiar emotional state. In this class we will survey works by Anton Chekhov, Annie Proulx, Penelope Fitzgerald and others, discovering how the camera lens changes with varied points of view. We’ll also draw on Charles Baxter's essay, “Loss of Face,” discussing how and when writers draw or omit facial detail in portraying character. In a writing exercise drawn from the readings and discussion, students will have the opportunity to explore techniques for inhabiting character and will share their experiments in an informal workshop setting.