Porter Shreve is the author of three novels, all with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: The Obituary Writer was a New York Times Notable Book and Drives Like a Dream and When the White House Was Ours were both Chicago Tribune Best Books of the Year. He is coeditor of six anthologies, and his book reviews, nonfiction, op-eds and short stories have appeared in Witness, Salon, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe and the New York Times. He has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and is now Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Purdue University.
Workshop: Fiction Workshop: Writing is Character Building
Character is the foundation of most of the finest stories and novels. Even in developing other elements of fiction – point of view, dialogue, plot, setting, theme – all roads run through character. E.M. Forster wrote that a character in a book is real “when the [writer] knows everything about it. He may not choose to tell us all he knows . . . but he will give us the feeling that though the character has not been explained, it is explicable, and we get from this a reality of a kind we can never get in daily life.” In this workshop we’ll create characters from the ground up, sketching out their particular habits, guises, desires, fears and impediments, reading examples of short portrait stories by writers such as Katherine Mansfield, Edwidge Danticat and Tobias Wolff. Then we’ll write a scene or sequence of scenes in which an action takes place, a character pursues a desire or motive, and toward the end a recognition occurs on the part of the reader, the character or both.
Come ready to write a brief short story or a section toward a longer work, and bring along a description or scene involving one of your favorite characters in literature to share with the group.
Porter Shreve on the Web: