January 30, 2019–March 6, 2019
6 p.m.–8 p.m.
Evil and Empathy: How to Create Complexity in Villains and Other Characters
What is the nature of evil and how do we address it in fiction? We'll look at archetypal villains (think: fairy tales) as well as more complex monsters, such as the hero turned bad or the devil with whom we can't help but empathize. Do we want to empathize with the villains in stories? What is gained and lost by it? Won't it just make us see the evil in—gasp!—ourselves?
Through examination of shadow selves, conflicting motivation and desire, and the creation of change in characters, we'll figure out how complex villains come alive on the page. Sample texts will include a few craft essays, as well as excerpts of fiction by writers such as Ted Chiang, Danielle Evans, Kiese Laymon, Kellie Link, Chigozie Obioma, Helen Oyeyemi, ZZ Packer, and Leslie Marmon Silko. Then, through concrete prompts and exercises, we'll create our own heroes, villains, and complex combinations of the two. Disclaimer: The class will focus on villains, but you won't escape learning about complexity in other sorts of characters as well.