Your Family Members, Your Characters
When we write memoir or autobiographical fiction, our characters are drawn from the people we love, the people we know the best. So why is it that sometimes those characters appear the blurriest to readers, less vivid because they’re drawn from someone real? Is it possible that how close we are to someone might be the very thing that complicates turning them into an effective character? As writers, we must set aside self-interest to understand our characters' motivations and allow them to live on the page. Only then will our characters have as much emotional reality for our readers as they do for us as writers. This is just sometimes difficult when we know them in real life—because writers are human, too. In this class, we'll use writing exercises to develop the characters that just happen to be our family members. We'll also read and discuss exceptional examples of family member characterization in published memoirs and autobiographical novels, and use these examples as models for our own writing. Be prepared with family stories and ready to write! Each student will receive an individualized email with suggestions for moving forward at the end of the class.
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir, which was named a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award and a New England Book Award, and one of Audible.com, Book Riot, and the Guardian’s Best Books of 2017. A National Endowment for the Arts fellow and two-time fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo, she lives in Somerville, MA and teaches at Harvard.