Writing the Self as a Character in Nonfiction

Writing the self as a character spring 2020

Mexico’s greatest female artist, if not most well-known, Frida Kahlo painted brutally honest self-portraits that reveal her psychological and emotional response to adversity and trauma. She was alone often, and, in turn, worked obsessively with self-portraiture. Her reflection fuelled an unflinching interest in identity and her divided roles as artist, lover, and wife.

What can writers learn from Kahlo’s relentless interrogation of herself? Is this kind of intricate analysis and reflection of self necessary? How can it feed and layer our writing and our stories?

Memoir and personal essay, too, is self-portraiture. In one essay, the writer may paint herself in a schoolyard, quiet and sad but also angry and ready to fight the bully who is terrorizing her and her classmates. In another essay, she reveals herself as terrified and ashamed when a professor calls her irresponsible and questions how she got into an Ivy League. Does the reader of either of these stories need to know that the narrator was raised in Brooklyn? That her grandmother has been working since she was five and only went up to the third grade in school? That her special place when she was a child was the fort she built in the bottom bunk? How do these truths bleed into our writing subconsciously? How do we decide what to write and what to leave out?

Frida-physical pain

Creating the self as a character is a significant element of autobiographical writing. In fiction, characterization is a given, but what about memoir? How do we glean through all that material of the self and decide which details can be left out in one piece of writing, but are absolutely critical to the next?

In this intensive we will discuss these questions and engage in deeply reflective activities to help you develop yourself as a character on the page.

Class Information:

This class is self-paced, and available online on March 16th, 2020. 

Tuition: $60

Platform: wet.ink

What you get:

  • Instructional lessons
  • Model texts
  • Craft essays
  • A slew of reflective writing assignments.

To register, send an email with “Writing the Self as a Character” in the subject line to writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com.

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