Developing Fictional Characters

Walter Mosley

Lesson time 12:21 min

Easy Rawlins is a legend. Learn what it takes to create a strong character using Walter’s most famous protagonist.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Your Character Needs a Predicament · Creating a Compelling Character · Your Character Is Revealed in Relation to Other Characters


[MUSIC PLAYING] - You have to understand-- in-- in-- in most arts and most things that people get taught, they don't know anything about it before they do it. If you go into an algebra class, well, you probably don't know anything about algebra. If you're being taught how to do a sculpture, well, you probably don't know anything about working with marble and a hammer and a chisel. But when we start to talk about writing, when we start to talk about storytelling, everybody-- or almost everybody-- knows writing, knows storytelling. Not only that, they probably do writing and storytelling every day. So what I want to do is pull out some of the elements of what you already do every day, and make it into a more, kind of, structured, and to some degree codified, system. So I'm going to talk to you about plot versus story, character versus character development, the music of language, the importance of poetry. All of these things I'll talk about. They are elements of fiction, but you have to know how-- how they work in order to use them technically in writing a novel. For the purposes of showing you how I started writing novels, and how I do write them, we're going to use "Devil in a Blue Dress." "Devil in a Blue Dress" is the first book I ever published. And so therefore, it has a kinship to what you're doing. Many of you, this is going to be your first book, and so you'll see what I went through doing what you're doing now. The most important thing you're ever going to do in your novel is that after every sentence, every paragraph, every page, and every chapter, your reader's going to wonder what happens next. One of the easiest ways to get them to do that is to hook them on the-- the problem or the situation that the main character or characters are in. Once you understand that these people are going to have trouble, or these people might find treasure, or these people may finally escape from a prison, then you're-- you're deeply involved in who they are, and what they are, and what they are trying to do. Once you're-- or, they're there, you want to turn the page, because the novel is not written if the reader doesn't want to turn the page. People read novels for two reasons. They read it for entertainment on a light level, and they read it to further understand human character, human nature on another. In order to answer the second, deeper issue, the character has to learn something. The character has to change. Character doesn't have to become better. The character doesn't have to become good. It could be the opposite. He could start off good and become bad. He could start off hopeful and end up a pessimist. But he has to be impacted by this world that we're reading about, and therefore, we, the reader, can more closely identify with that character, and hopefully understand a little something about ourselves. "Devil in a Blue Dress" is a novel about a guy named "Easy" Rawlins-- Ezekiel Porterhouse Rawlins. Denzel Was...

About the Instructor

Walter Mosley, bestselling author and recipient of the National Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement Medal, has written more than 60 books over his 30-year career and is celebrated for fiction that addresses our culture’s racial divides. Now he’s sharing the elements of storytelling that have helped him along the way. Learn how to choose the right words, structure, genre, and characters to create the novel that’s in you.

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Walter Mosley

In his MasterClass, Walter Mosley teaches you how to rethink genres and the “rules” of fiction and how to approach writing your own novel.

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