Getting to Know Your Character

Online | Picture Books, Early Readers and Chapter Books, Novels
Characters are the foundation for every aspect of your story. They’re also the vehicle through which readers will connect with your story. Use this course to deepen your understanding of your characters in picture books through novels to unlock secrets and make decisions about point of view, plot, pacing and more.

Overview

Multi-Week Online Course

Characters are the foundation for every aspect of your story. They’re also the vehicle through which readers will connect with your story. Use this course to deepen your understanding of your characters in picture books through novels to unlock secrets and make decisions about point of view, plot, pacing and more.

  • Live lectures (with closed captioning) Wednesdays at 12-1:30pm EST (February 15, February 22, March 1, and March 8)
  • Optional Writing Sprints on Thursdays, 12 – 1pm EST (February 16, 23, and March 2)
  • Weekly Writing assignments February 15 – March 8 (2 per week; posted in the virtual classroom)
  • Written feedback post-course on up to 10 pages of your work in progress (plus a cover letter and synopsis) from a guest reader
  • 24 participants max

Why This Workshop?

Character can tell you so much about your story, including what goes “on the page” and what happens behind the scenes. In this four-week course, you will explore character in four key ways:

  • Getting to Know Your Main Character
  • The Influence of Secondary Characters
  • Seeing Characters Through Scene
  • Strengthening Your Characters (with the help of outlines, storyboards, and other tricks)

You’ll engage in faculty lectures and Q&A sessions (one per week), explore resources and complete writing exercises (two per week), and have the option to attend writing sprints (gathering together to write).

You’ll also receive reader feedback from experienced writers, Tina Athaide or Nora Shalaway Carpenter on your cover letter and up to 10 pages of your work in progress post-course (due between March 15 – 22). Written feedback will be returned to you within 4 – 6 weeks.

Feedback Expected

  • Informal written feedback in the Virtual Classroom following writing exercises from peers and faculty.
  • Post-course critique with a guest reader includes written feedback on up to 10 pages (plus a cover letter and synopsis). Written feedback will be provided within 4 – 6 weeks of submission.

It’s a Great Fit For…

  • Novelists (middle grade or YA) or chapter book writers.
  • Picture Book writers of fiction and/or nonfiction.
  • Those who are working on or have completed a draft. No matter where you are in your draft, exploring character will help grow or revise your story.
  • Those who like the structure of weekly lectures and writing exercises. All sessions take place weekly with connections to writing exercises to keep you in your project. You can also opt for writing sprints to encourage community building and accountability.

Detailed Agenda

All Times are Eastern Standard Time.

Week 1: Starts Wednesday, February 15

Wednesday, February 15, 12pm – 1:30pm Eastern: Getting to Know Your Main Character (Live Lecture)

  • Welcome with introductions
  • Opening lecture
  • Q & A
  • Overview of writing assignment, virtual classroom, and optional writing sprints

Thursday, February 16, 12pm – 1pm Eastern: Optional Writing Sprint (Live on Zoom)

  • Optional gathering to write together for one hour each week.

In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Two writing assignments
Week 2: Starts Wednesday, February 22

Wednesday, February 22, 12pm – 1:30pm Eastern: The Influence of Secondary Characters (Live Lecture)

  • Lecture
  • Q & A
  • Overview of writing assignment

Thursday, February 23, 12pm – 1pm Eastern: Optional Writing Sprint (Live on Zoom)

  • Optional gathering to write together for one hour each week.

In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Two writing assignments
Week 3: Starts Wednesday, March 1

Wednesday, March 1, 12pm – 1:30pm Eastern: Seeing Characters Through Scene (Live Lecture)

  • Lecture
  • Panel discussion with guest readers, Tina Athaide, Meera Trehan,Nora Shalaway Carpenter
  • Overview of writing assignment

Thursday, March 2, 12pm – 1pm Eastern: Optional Writing Sprint (Live on Zoom)

  • Optional gathering to write together for one hour each week.

In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Two writing assignments
Week 4: Starts Wednesday, March 8

Wednesday, March 8, 12pm – 1:30pm Eastern: Strengthening Your Characters (with the help of outlines, storyboards, and other tricks) (Live Lecture)

  • Lecture
  • Q & A
  • Overview of submission process for guest readers
  • Closing thoughts (What comes next?)

In the Virtual Classroom:

  • Prepare for submission (included but optional)
Post-Course

Submission for Critique (Included, but Optional)
Following the course, you will have the option to submit your cover letter, synopsis, and up to ten pages from one work-in-progress for review from a guest reader, Tina Athaide or Nora Shalaway Carpenter . You will receive written feedback (1-2 pages) with information about what’s working, and constructive thoughts from your reader.

This submission is included in the price of the course, but it is optional. If you choose to submit, submissions will be accepted between March 15 – 22, and you will receive feedback within 4 – 6 weeks of your submission.

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Commitment Required for the Best Experience

This multi-week course is best if you attend or watch all lectures. We recommend setting aside time to do the writing exercises, and when able, attend the weekly writing sprints. We strongly recommend taking advantage of the written post-course feedback from guest readers. (Note: If your schedule does not allow you to attend the live sessions and you would still like to register, that’s OK! You’ll have access to the recordings with closed captioning. They’re posted the day after the session, and they’ll be available through April 30, 2023.)

The Highlights Foundation strives for a safe and inclusive environment. You will have access to our Community Standards prior to the workshop where we ask for your respectful engagement with fellow creatives, including our faculty and staff.

How It Impacts Kids

Characters are the main way your readers connect with your story. Characters resonate with kids. This course deepens your own understanding of your characters, so that you can create memorable and inspiring work for children and young adults.

Testimonials from Our Community

“Sarah Aronson was organized, thorough in addressing character development through many avenues, personable in presentation, eager to pose and engage online dialogue in community as well as being responsive to the exercises that she posed for us.”

“Sarah was a master at character development and so approachable in her delivery. I am grateful for the opportunity to take her class and feel that it’s definitely helped me move forward in my middle-grade fiction book.”

I learned the importance of storyboarding each scene in the book and in the picture books I have been drafting; also the importance of community and sharing ideas.”

“Don’t miss the opportunity to take “Getting to Know Your Character” with Sarah Aronson. Having her as a teacher for the first time years ago launched my writing journey and inspired me to never stop learning and never give up. She has boundless wisdom to share, joyful generosity of spirit, sincere enthusiasm for all of her students’ projects, and a knack for asking just the right questions.”

Meet the Faculty

Special Guests

Access

When you register for this course, you’ll receive information via email to confirm.

For mini courses (one or two sessions only), you’ll receive webinar links immediately to use on the day of the course.

For longer courses, you’ll receive an invitation to your virtual classroom as the workshop approaches.

Can't Attend Some Sessions Live?

That's generally okay!  We know that you are juggling other demands with your workshop.

Recordings are made available to all registrants for most live sessions, usually the day after the session.  Check your course description for specific details about session recordings, and when they are released.

We also try to suggest in the description how using the recordings may impact your experience if you can't attend live.  But ultimately, it's up to you!  Let us know if you need help.

Learn more about the technology that we use for our online workshops.

Workshops for Writers & Illustrators

> Online
> In-Person
> On-Demand (Self-Paced Online)

New to the Highlights Foundation? Try these:

About Children's Publishing | The Whole Novel Workshop | Summer Camp

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