Online: Character, Plot and Dialogue
Setting out to write a fiction manuscript can feel like scaling Everest: exciting, but how do you know you’re on the right track? In this six-week course with novelist Toni Jordan, you’ll develop character, plot and dialogue in your work-in-progress.
Using examples, theory, writing exercises and workshopping, Toni will help you focus on the characters, plot and dialogue of your manuscript so that the whole work improves. We will read a range of novel extracts, undertake a number of short writing exercises, and discuss our findings together. Group workshopping and individual feedback will ensure that your specific issues are addressed.
This course takes place on a website specifically designed for writers, making it simple and easy to share your writing, give and receive feedback, and interact with fellow writers.
Please expect to dedicate three to four hours to coursework each week. This includes reading, responding to discussions, writing, revising and providing peer feedback.
Week-by-Week Course Breakdown
Week 1: Characterisation in fiction: examples and exercises
First, we’ll consider your characters from the way they appear on the outside, or how they’re perceived by someone who knows them casually. We’ll discuss their physical description and how to choose ‘telling’ details, their points of inconsistency and their surface motivations. Our goal here is to achieve vivid, complex characters that come alive for readers.
Week 2: True character in fiction: examples and exercises
Humans, though, are not simply collections of identifiable attributes easily understood by a casual observer. At the very heart of a fictional human is their true character: the essence of them. This may be something that no one else knows – in fact, they might not even consciously know it about themselves. For the novelist, this is the objective of the plot: to put the character/s in situations where their true character is revealed.
Week 3: Successful plotting: what you need in your toolbox
When a plot isn’t working or is difficult to find, it’s often because the manuscript lacks some fundamental character conflicts, or thematic or worldview clarity. This week we’ll look at some of the essential things you’ll need to have in place before you start considering or refining the plot.
Week 4: Successful plotting: inciting incident, crisis and climax
By considering three distinct plot points and where they should appear in the manuscript, we can start to form a narrative spine. We’ll look closely at the relationships between these three individual points and the way they speak to the different levels of character conflicts. We’ll also discuss the importance of the two-tone ending.
Week 5: Successful plotting: subplots and first aid
Very few manuscripts have plots that work perfectly in the first draft, so this week we’ll work through your plot ideas to see how they’re functioning across the manuscript. We’ll discuss individual plot holes and wobbly bits, and discuss first aid tricks like branching possibilities. We’ll also look at successful subplots.
Week 6: Dialogue
Now that the basic shape of your plot is solid, we’ll be looking back on individual scenes and using what you now know about your characters to write their dialogue. We’ll be exploring dialogue as a tool for revealing character; stressing the distinctiveness of word choice and speech patterns; and discussing subtext, dialogue tags and adverbs.
Expected Learning Outcomes
- Find your two-tone ending
- Understand the relationship between character and plot
- Identify your inciting incident, and where it should appear in your story
Participants should have a novel-length manuscript in progress, with at least 2000 words written. This course is not suitable for memoir or other non-fiction writers. All participants must be over eighteen years of age.
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About the tutor
Toni Jordan is the author of five novels. The international bestseller Addition was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Fall Girl was published internationally and has been optioned for film, and Nine Days was awarded Best Fiction at the Indie Awards, was shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award and was […]