Your Family Members, Your Characters

Your Family Members, Your Characters

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
April 2 to April 6, 2018
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1-Week Intensive

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 will be published by Flatiron Books (Macmillan) in May 2017. It is also forthcoming from publishers internationally. A National Endowment for the Arts fellow and Rona Jaffe Award recipient, she has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Iowa Review, and many other publications, and were recognized “notable” in Best American Essays 2013, 2015, and 2016. She earned her JD at Harvard and now teaches at Grub Street and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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